For me, celebration of Labor Day is sobered by the looming backlog of duties that piled up during August vacation. If only we could bank...

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For me, celebration of Labor Day is sobered by the looming backlog of duties that piled up during August vacation.

If only we could bank some of those lazy hazy crazy days, for use when we need a few extra fall hours to get things done. As it turns out, computer technology is attempting this very capability. Devices like TiVo, satellite radio and the iPod promote a concept called “time-shifting,” where consumers get to control the when and where of entertainment.

Record a KOMO-TV “Northwest Afternoon” segment for viewing at some other time than its 3 p.m. broadcast and you’re time-shifting. Listen to a KUOW-FM broadcast of Steve Scher’s “Weekday” during a treadmill session at the gym — same idea.

TimeTrax time-shifting for satellite-radio subscribers is compatible with Sirius and XM systems.

Using a related concept, a device called the Slingbox enables your broadband-connected PC to receive a TV broadcast (or video-recorder) signal from home while you’re on the go.

The cherry on top of most “shifting” is that you can skip over commercials, which are taking up an annoyingly bigger chunk of popular broadcasts.

The potential flaw in time-shifting is its assumption that people today actually have time available to shift. My own experience, and repeated anecdotal evidence, suggests that filling a video recorder’s hard disk with 80 hours of television is a lot easier than finding the wherewithal to watch it.

In many cases the scenario is complicated by the need to shift pretty quickly. Let a few sports events or daily shows sit around and you’ll find yourself skipping through more than the commercials. Movies, TV specials, podcasts and, to a certain extent, TV series lend themselves better to delayed enjoyment.

But time-shifting’s biggest attraction may simply be commercial-dodging. Calling it such would not make much of a marketing slogan, especially among Hollywood types who recoil at any convenience for skipping ads.

Whatever their reasons, most people I know who take advantage of time-shifting do so because they have almost no time. They’re busy professionals with hectic, fast-lane lives.

My guess (without any real data on the phenomenon yet) is that “normal folks” find plenty to view or listen to when they switch on the TV or radio. They aren’t as picky as time-shifters. They don’t have to be; they have more time.

Perhaps time-shifting is simply technology’s way of saying it’s sorry. Fiddling with computers and gadgets is often cited as one of our culture’s biggest time sinks.

But here’s a thought. If each hour could be shortened by 5 minutes, we would have an extra two hours a day to play with.

It could be accomplished with the simplest of technologies. Just offer a clock or watch with 55 minutes to the hour (make sure your boss gets one as well!). You could even advertise it with an irresistible new marketing slogan: “time-gifting.”

Seattle freelance writer Paul Andrews has written about technology for more than two decades. He can be reached at