“There’s a little something in this week’s Circuits section of the New York Times about CableCard ( NYtimes free reg required or bugmenot *wink*), a newish technology for cable TV that you’re going to be hearing a lot about soon.
Here’s the scoop: CableCard is literally a card that you pop into the back of your TV set so that you can get rid of your digital cable box and plug that coax directly into your digital TV (it’s sort of like how you can use analog cable on a cable-ready analog TV without a cable box). What’s the card for? It’s to make sure you aren’t stealing cable, so it stores all your account information and descrambling stuff. Besides meaning you have one less ugly component to deal with, getting rid of the cable box also usually means better picture quality and you don’t have pay rental fees for your box any more (though we have faith that the cable companies will eventually find a way to charge seven bucks a month for CableCard rentals).
Besides obviously needing a CableCard-ready TV set (most new digital HDTVs have to have CableCard slots), there are a few downsides, like you can’t access your cable company’s onscreen programming guide and you can’t order pay-per-view or video-on-demand programming (at least not using your remote), but the real deal killer for us is that you won’t be able to use it with a digital video recorder. That is definitely changing (we know Sony is planning a CableCard-ready HD digital video recorder and TiVo has told us they are working on one), but in the meantime we’ll live with the setup we have now.“