29 May 2008

The Not So Universal Interconnectedness of Remotes

In Urban Bohemian's latest post, he mentions giving his cousin a mini-tutorial on how to use his universal remote.

I totally get this. The universal remote is anything but.

We have one. It's different from my sister's. It's different from my friend's. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever encountered two that look or work the same outside of a store display for universal remotes. I swear my brother-in-law's is controlling the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. I have yet to successfully navigate it. (The remote or the orbiter. Shhh, don't tell NASA.)

When my mother, a talking-head-aholic, comes to visit, I am on standby at all times, because she'll want to switch between the MSNBC political wonks and the CNN political wonks* and the TV will either go to fuzz or the "Are you sure you want to purchase Naughty Minxes?" screen the minute she touches the remote.

Even people trained to use their universal remote occasionally hit the wrong button causing others** to go into endless gnashing of teeth and the wailing, good god, the wailing. ALLLLLRIGHT, already with the wailing!

There's just no reason this has to be so hard. We need a standards committee. We need someone to invent a universal universal remote. I'd do it but I gotta go--I inadvertently ordered "Mandy Does McKeesport" and, you know, if you miss the beginning it's impossible to follow the plot.

* And, really, shouldn't they just merge and call it Wonkavision?

** You know who you are.


brian said...

I once bought a self-professed control freak a card for his birthday that read, (front) I was going to get you a universal remote for your birthday. (inside) But then I found out that they don't actually control the universe!

If you're a gadget person, you've already got the intuitive curve that manufacturers pretend everyone has. For the rest of people though, especially those that aren't as gadget laden, it can be a nightmare.

When I got in last night, she'd clearly figured out how to watch tv, change channels, and none of my saved TiVo shows had been deleted. Success!

Judith HeartSong said...

I totally agree, remotes are a nightmare and at other people's houses we cannot even turn on the tv unless there is a five year old child present to help.

Bilbo said...

If there were really such a thing as a universal remote, it would be so complicated that no ordinary human would be able to program it, much less use it. Our downstairs "entertainment system" is operated by 5 remotes: one for the TV, one for the cable box, one for the satellite receiver, one for the sound system, and one for the VHS/DVD system. My son, who is a civil engineer, managed to get one of the remotes programmed to operate both the TV and the cable box, but I'm the only one who understands how to use it...when I'm out of town, my wife just listens to the radio.

Dixie said...

Universal remotes are one of those item that sounds great in theory, but never works out so well in practice. My cable box remote is supposed to also be able to operate my DVD player, speakers, and television. I have not yet figured out how, but it says it can right there on the buttons.

Sean said...

Mandy Does McKeesport? What a title! (I really hope that this isn't a real movie; I grew up not far from McKeesport!)

Gilahi said...

Sean, did you know Mandy?

lacochran said...

Brian: Love the card and congrats on the saved TiVo shows. Woohoo!

J HS: There's nothing worse than a smug 5-year-old.

Bilbo: So *that's* why radio still exists!

Dixie: If it's in print, it's gotta be true!

Sean: Everything is a porn title if we just believe. How's that for Zen?

Gilahi: Ah, now we get to why Sean is really asking. Did you see this flick? Does someone who looks suspiciously like Sean deliver a pizza?

j.m. tewkesbury said...

In the course of human history, we've managed to invent the wheel, harness fire, send a man to the moon, and develop sophisticated weapons systems that can plant a 5,000 lb bomb on the head of a dandelion in Winga Wanga in the middle of the night in a hurricane, but we can't figure out a friggin' remote? What is wrong with this world?!

lacochran said...


I'm sure Scott McClellan had no knowledge of the Winga Wanga bombing at the time but he condemns it now.

And the French.

AbbotOfUnreason said...

I've been to McKeesport. Worst place I've ever ridden a bicycle into.

Universal remotes don't have the PR money that the Winga Wanga bomb technology does.

Universal remotes really ought to start looking more like little PDAs and be driven by menu instead of button.

lacochran said...

Alright, let's get this rolling...

Who's designing the "Save the Winga Wanga" t-shirts?

Come on, people! Less chatter, more silk-screening.