I was in your situation up until a month ago, when my cable company went all-digital. Up until then I had cable but did not need a cable box because I only had "Broadcast Basic" service - the basic channels which were still analog. I only needed the box if I wanted to receive all the digital channels as well as the analog. I only wanted the basic channels and it only cost $13.00 a month, so I was very happy without the box.
All this time (for 11 years) I used a Sony VCR to record and play TV programs. It was the first thing my cable line was hooked up to as the cable line came through the wall, so it was the "tuner". I could watch one TV channel while recording another TV channel. It was great.
Then when my cable company went all-digital, my VCR would not record anymore. I called Sony, and the tech said the VCR could only record analog signals, not digital signals. He said if I got the cable box (which converts digital signals to analog) then my same old VCR would work, if it's hooked up to the cable box.
However I understand from reading other questions, that I'll only be able to record the channel I'm watching, not another channel, because when the cable box is the tuner, it only tunes one channel at a time, which is not nearly as good. The reason for this, of course, is so you'll be forced to order their DVR service which costs more money!
Point being, if your cable company is still on analog broadcasting, or partial analog, and you are receiving those analog channels without a cable box, you should be able to use any VCR to record those analog channels. Just hook the VCR up first to the cable line as it comes through the wall, then the VCR hooks up to the TV. The VCR will be your tuner for the different analog channels. But remember this will only work if your TV channels are analog, not digital.
One thing to check - I notice a lot of the new VCRs that are advertised say "No tuner" or "Tunerless". My old Sony VCR which I'm still using was made in 2001 and obviously is capable of tuning analog channels, but not digital. I don't think any VCRs can record digital. So if you are buying a new VCR, check to make sure it can be used as a tuner to record analog channels (which means you won't need the cable box). Hope this helps.
Yes. The recorder doesn't have a tuner, so it must be connected to a cable box to record TV programs.