One evening shortly before Christmas, I walked into the living room and discovered that the VCR was busily recording something I knew nothing about. Based on my unfortunate history with all things mechanical and/or electronic, my first thought was that I'd done something wrong. I thought maybe I'd accidentally hit the "record" button on the remote control when I'd turned the TV on earlier. Oh, well, no harm done. I pressed the "stop" button and turned off the VCR.
A couple of days later, it happened again. That time I was watching television when I heard the VCR click on and start recording. There was no way I'd pressed "record." I had a plate in my left hand and a fork in my right, and the remote control was lying untouched on the end table.
The second time happened at approximately the same time of day as the first time did, so I considered another possibility: What if I had somehow programmed it (accidentally, of course) to record something every day at that time? If that was it, all I had to do was delete the program, and I knew how to do that. I pressed the "menu" button, then pressed the number to "review existing programs." The message on the screen told me there were no existing programs. There was nothing to delete.
But the next day? Same time? The darned thing started recording again.
I started paying attention. Every Monday through Friday--but not on weekends--the VCR turns itself on at exactly 6:00 p.m. That's 6:00 p.m. actual time; 5:59 p.m. according to the VCR clock. I don't know what time it stops because I've always turned it off manually.
It occurred to me that the VCR might be getting a signal from an outside source, a neighbor's VCR perhaps, so I conducted a little experiment. I have two more VCRs in the house, so the other day, as soon as I got home from work, I set the clocks on both of them and put in fresh tapes. At 6:00 p.m. the VCR in the living room started recording right on schedule. The other two? Nothing.
I realize that this isn't a huge problem in the total scheme of things, but it's definitely an irritant. If I record something to watch later, I don't dare rewind it unless I'm gonna watch it immediately. I learned that the hard way, after it turned itself on and recorded over most of an Ugly Betty episode I'd taped.
The otherworldly, non-programmed recording isn't the only happening with the VCR. When I watch anything I've previously recorded, or when I'm watching one channel and recording another, weird bars of seemingly random letters and symbols show up on the screen. The bars vary in length, number and position. Sometimes they appear on the VCR menu screen, too, blocking out the date or time or some other vital piece of information I need to enter.
At this point I'm out of ideas. Are there any techies out there who have a clue what might be happening here? Any exorcists?