Stochastic models of ion channels have been based largely on Markov theory where individual states and transition rates must be specified, and sojourn-time densities for each state are constrained to be exponential. This study presents an approach based on random-sum methods and alternating-renewal theory, allowing individual states to be grouped into classes provided the successive sojourn times in a given class are independent and identically distributed. Under these conditions Markov models form a special case. The utility of the approach is illustrated by considering the effects of limited time resolution (modelled by using a discrete detection limit, $\xi $) on the properties of observable events, with emphasis on the observed open-time ($\xi $- open-time). The cumulants and Laplace transform for a $\xi $- open-time are derived for a range of Markov and non-Markov models; several useful approximations to the $\xi $- open-time density function are presented. Numerical studies show that the effects of limited time resolution can be extreme, and also highlight the relative importance of the various model parameters. The theory could form a basis for future inferential studies in which parameter estimation takes account of limited time resolution in single channel records. Appendixes include relevant results concerning random sums and a discussion of the role of exponential distributions in Markov models.