I learned a lesson about customer service in the 21st century this week. If you call a place like, say, Verizon to complain about misleading sales practices, they make some token offer like a few months of a movie channel (that you better remember to cancel later). And you'll wait on hold for a long time to get there. If, on the other hand, you tweet about it, you get a helpful response leading to something more significant within minutes. Nice to know.
So I now have HD signal coming in (yay), which my TV understands just fine but I'd like to be able to record in HD too. I currently have an ancient TiVo -- version 1, I think before they had version numbers. Obviously that doesn't speak HD, nor can it act as a tuner (I have to set the channel on the FiOS box). New TiVo boxes are pricy and then you have to add the lifetime subscription fee (up to $500 now!) because that's "lifetime of the box", not "your lifetime" so your old one doesn't transfer. This all suggests that I should be looking for a used TiVo that's newer than mine but older than the current offerings, one that already has a lifetime subscription that the seller can transfer.
It looks like the TiVo Premiere HD DVR was their first HD box and is a few years old at this point (sample offer on eBay, TiVoPedia page). I'm a little confused about FiOS integration; this takes "cable in" but I've read that FiOS or cable + HD + DVR means you need a "cable card" (rented from your service provider). How does that work? And is it user-installable? Or are cards "new" and older DVRs use the cable box?
I'd like to be able to record, in HD, and be able to program (time and channel) the DVR directly (not set the channel on a different device). I don't need to be able to record two different shows at once, or record one and watch another, or anything fancy like that. I don't need a huge hard drive. I want to keep costs down but want something that works pretty much out of the box, not "get a spare PC and...". I prefer to minimize ongoing fees (subscriptions) in favor of up-front purchases.
Please guide me, oh LJ brain trust. Most of you are way ahead of me on TV tech.
Commenters explained the cable card.
I later added:
Now that I've gotten a new(er) TiVo via eBay I see the source of my confusion: I thought the cable feed plugged into the card (which plugs into the box), but that made the "cable in" connection totally mysterious. But they're separate operations, or so it appears (I don't have the card yet) -- cable in, and also plug in a card, and the TiVo takes the data from the former and the decryption key from the latter and makes signal come out.