The Digital Life: Remote Controls

Remote Controls

Every person I know has them. Some, like us, have several. Really? Are we so lazy, that we can’t just get up and turn on the TV? Do we need TV?

And there are the people, who just want to turn on the TV, but with a collection of audio/video components and a remote control for each on of them, things can get out of sync, and then nothing works. Often, to get the home entertainment system up and working again, it takes a digital gauntlet of remotes, component settings, user guides, and perhaps prayer, to get things back online.

More than once I have been out of town and Joyce has called to say, “The TV is broken.” No, she just pushed a bunch of buttons and got into a confusing quagmire of digital hell – nothing was broken. Not that I am any smarter, sometimes I would forget how to use a component in our entertainment system and would have to ask Joyce, “Now what buttons do I need to push to watch this DVD you bought me for Christmas?”


When I was a kid we had 7 TV stations. Yep, 7 total. The 3 Networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC. Plus we had 4 local stations. That was it.

And we had no remote controls.

We didn’t sit on a couch and surf through a 150+ stations trying to find something to occupy our minds. No, we had a weekly TV guide, either the official TV Guide publication, or a weekly guide that came in the Sunday newspaper. Oh, I forgot, we got our news by reading the newspaper everyday, we figured the TV people presenting the nightly news were mostly entertainers, not unbiased reporters.

So every Sunday we would review the TV listings for the week. Generally we found 3 or 4 good programs on Sunday night: The Wonderful World of Disney, Lassie, Bonanza, and the Ed Sullivan Show. That was it.

You see; even as children, we came to the conclusion each Sunday afternoon that there was virtually nothing worth watching on television, other than an occasional movie.

There were one or two sporting events on each weekend. That was it. Why on earth would you want a remote control for the TV? Most of us had radios, but they were standalone devices. So were our record players.

So we spent a lot of time away from the house. We learned how to develop and nurture interpersonal relationships. We read a lot. Much time was spent in libraries. Little of society was dysfunctional. Today most of society is dysfunctional – I blame it on remote controls, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest of the social media crapola.


There is an old saying, that if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem. So here are my solutions.

Solution 1:

Review a TV guide before turning on the television. You will soon see and learn, for the most part, that there is nothing worth watching. Most news programing, game shows, reality shows, amateur hour type programs, and sitcoms are a complete idiotic waste of time. That leaves little left to watch other than a good movie or documentary.

Solution 2:

Cancel your cable TV or satellite subscription if you have one. Actually, this is the best solution, but it isn’t going to fly in my house. The boss would swiftly veto it.


Even if one gets rid of TV reception, there is value in watching a good movie, listening to music, streaming something from your iDevice to the big screen via Apple TV. All of this normally requires an amplifier/receiver, a DVD player, Apple TV, and perhaps other accessories.

So we are back to ground zero. And a boxful of remotes.

Logitech Harmony Remote

We have used universal remote controls in the past to try and control all our devices. They never seem to work that well or they cannot replicate all the functions of a device-specific remote. And of course, press the wrong sequence of buttons on the remote and the system stops working.

LogiTech Harmony Remote Control
LogiTech Harmony Remote Control

A few months ago I bought a LogiTech Harmony remote. I can’t believe I spent over $150 on a remote control device. But I learned a long time ago, if the wife is happy then everyone will be happy. And Joyce is happy with it.

First of all, it was incredibly easy to program. It recognized all our devices.

It is wireless. Of course, it doesn’t have a wire connecting it to devices, by wireless I mean it doesn’t use infra-red (IR) signals to transmit commands, which means you don’t have to point it directly at any device. Most devices utilize IR for remote control. The harmony has its own receiver box which then transmits any required IR signals. So… this means one could put everything in a cabinet out of sight and the remote control would work.

Its shape makes it nice and easy to hold, and the unit is actually smaller than any of the remote controls it replaces.

Operation is easy. Push the off button and everything shuts down. Want to watch satellite TV? Push the TV button and the cable box, amplifier, and TV power up. Want to stream something to Apple TV? Push that button and Apple TV is powered up, while turning off the cable box. When a device is selected it turns off all other devices that might be powered up. The Harmony can replicate just about any command the original remote had built into it.

So we are actually paring down our entertainment system. We are down to a Blue-ray player, a receiver/amplifier, Apple TV, cable box, and the television set. Oh, and just one remote control. But I spend most of my time at home reading, which is the best entertainment.

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