1-Touch Programming to Debut

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For all those who are frustrated by the complex, time-consuming process of programming a VCR, help may be on the way.

At a press conference Tuesday, InSight Telecast, in conjunction with several other companies, unveiled a one-touch automated programming system, tentatively scheduled to debut in early 1992. If the system is as efficient as it looked in the demonstration, it will make programming simple--but not free.

What the viewer does is scroll through an on-screen programming guide that looks like the typical newspaper or magazine TV listing. Press a button to highlight the show that he or she wants to tape and that's it--no fooling with channel numbers or starting and ending times. All the viewer needs to know is the name of the program to be recorded. It's possible to record as many shows as will fit on a tape.

Playback is equally easy. The VCR automatically logs which program was taped into a personal guide. The viewer calls the guide to the screen to find out which recorded show is on which tape in his library. For instance, if "The Cosby Show" is on tape No. 2, the viewer puts that tape in the VCR and the machine will automatically find the program and play it back.

The bad news is that the system isn't adaptable to present VCRs. Would-be users will have to buy a VCR that features InSight's patented device.

No VCR manufacturers have yet agreed to include the InSight system on their models, but negotiations are proceeding, said Scott Wilson, InSight's chief financial officer. The plan is to include the system on VCRs of all prices, he said. Depending on its features, he said, that will add $50-$150 to the VCR price.

Up-to-the minute TV listings will be provided by TV Host and will be broadcast to subscribers over a portion of the broadcast signal--called the vertical blanking interval--by Public Broadcasting Service stations. Viewers will have to pay a fee to receive the on-screen listings. The cost hasn't been worked out but, Wilson said, it will be under $10 a month.

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