The “Extraordinary Ordinary Things” blog series aims to emphasize the fact that certain things have become so ingrained in daily life that we scarcely ever think about them before demonstrating how strikingly amazing they actually are. Examining a specific remarkable ordinary thing often leads to the exploration of a much larger idea whose impacts on society are almost immeasurable. This is the case in this instance, especially with the TV remote control and the essentially all-encompassing idea of remote control in general.
I recall once watching a sitcom on television. When one of the children attempted to switch on the TV, it remained off. The scene portrayed a family settling down to watch TV. One remarked, “Perhaps the remote control’s batteries are dead.” So the batteries were replaced. The kids panicked when nothing changed after that. “How are we going to watch TV with a broken remote? We are lost!
The father then silently approached the TV, turned it on by pressing the red “on” button, and a picture started to show on the screen. The youngsters were shocked. Wow, father! How’d you managed that?
The shout went up, “The television is on, but this isn’t the station we want,” but he was unable to respond. We are lost! The father then twisted a little wheel on the TV until the appropriate station appeared on the screen. Wow, dad! I say it once more. How’d you managed that? Before he could respond once more, the cry of “But it’s not loud enough; we can’t hear anything” was heard. We are lost! The sound suddenly got louder as the father adjusted another dial on the TV. “Wow, dad,” was the response once more. How’d you managed that?
This comedy, in which these events occurred, most likely dates from the late 1980s, a time when some TVs still had manual controls in addition to remote controls. Due to the widespread usage of remote controls on modern television sets, the same scenario is not possible.I guess not quite. There are manual controls on modern TVs. However, most of the time they are concealed in the front, on the sides, or in the rear of the set, which makes utilizing or even spotting them challenging. As a result, they are rarely seen.
Furthermore, compared to the nearly limitless possibilities provided by remote control, such manual controls provide changes to TV viewing that are significantly less advanced. Instead of just entering the number 78 on the remote control, imagine attempting to manually press the channel selection button while watching channel 6 and want to go to channel 78!
The lesson of this tale is that while a TV remote control, more often referred to as the “remote,” was previously considered a luxury, it is now an absolute need. Without it, watching TV today would be difficult. The TV remote control is also representative of the remarkable developments in remote control technology that have been developed in only the last two or three decades for use in an almost limitless number of other disciplines. And progress is being made quickly.
Therefore, I firmly feel that the TV remote control deserves to be listed among the “amazing ordinary things,” as I like to refer to them.
A Short History of the TV Remote Control
Because the majority of people didn’t have TVs, to begin with, a TV remote control was never even a thought while I was growing up in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. For the majority of us who couldn’t afford a TV at home, viewing TV required getting out of bed, driving to the closest TV retailer, and praying that a program would be playing in the window while you stood outside and watched.
A TV was a common fixture in many American households by the middle of the 1950s. These had large, clunky displays in black and white that were quite small. Even though colour TV was first debuted in the US in 1953, most people were unable to afford it since there were only a very small number of shows available. The customer did not even have the faintest notion of a TV remote control at the time. It was enough to think about having a television at all. There were just a few channels, so getting up to change them or alter the volume just seemed like a natural part of the package.
During this time, my mother’s hearing loss was the closest thing to a TV remote control I can recall. She could hear what was happening without driving the rest of us out of the room, so I wired a pair of headphones to the TV’s speakers. Since it only adjusted the sound as it approached the listener’s ears rather than controlling the sound emanating from the TV, this was not a true remote control.
The concept for a real TV remote control originated from a distinctively American circumstance. In the United States, TV broadcasting was a private business, in contrast to the majority of the rest of the globe. Similar to radio broadcasting before it, TV transmission was subject to extensive federal regulation (Federal Communication Commission), but its primary objective was commercial, or to generate revenue. How do you monetize broadcasting, then? accompanied by a barrage of advertisements.
People were accustomed to hearing a lot of radio advertising. Radio did not need one’s whole concentration, but TV did. As a result, spending 15-20 minutes every hour on commercials became a tremendous hardship.
Although the advertising was unpleasant, free enterprise broadcasting in America had several very important benefits.
- First, it was free to listen to the radio and watch TV broadcasts. There was no license cost to pay to the government.
- Second, the profit motivation fostered the expansion of radio and television stations. In the 1950s, I believe, there were around 50 radio stations and 10 TV stations in the Los Angeles region where I resided. Five or six radio stations and one or two TV stations were the usual in other parts of the world.
- Third, there was little to no chance that radio and television transmission would turn become venues for federal propaganda. In the United States, the concept of a public broadcasting system was abhorrent. Only in the 1970s were government radio and TV broadcasts permitted. Even then, out of hundreds of non-governmental broadcasters, public radio and television accounted for (and still account for) just one radio or TV channel.
The president of Zenith Electronics, Eugene F. McDonald, issued a challenge to the team of engineers in the 1950s. Create a gadget with the ability to silence the ads, which were frequently aired at a volume greater than the show itself, or switch to another channel, where presumably something except ads was playing.
Eugene McDonald’s challenge sparked a revolution. No longer were TV viewers a captive (and irritated) audience. If they didn’t like what they were watching, they could simply change channels with the flick of a switch. The advertisers and commercial broadcasters did not like this very much; their profits were at stake. However, the deed had been done, and there was no going back.
This was not entirely a novel idea. The market already had remote TV channel changers, including Zenith’s own Lazy-Bones controller. They had a few serious shortcomings, though. They were connected to the TV by an annoying “umbilical cable” (electric wire). Additionally, although they gave the consumer the ability to switch stations and turn the TV on or off, they did not provide them the option to mute those obnoxious, occasionally deafening advertisement messages.
Eugene Polley created and introduced Flashmatic, a revolutionary wireless gadget for Zenith, in 1955. Because Polley was a mechanical engineer rather than an electrical engineer, the majority of his invention was mechanical.
A sensor was placed in each corner of the TV screen by Flashmatic along with a directed light source. This made it possible for the spectator to mute the sound and switch between higher and lower number channels. The Flasmatic’s primary flaw was that it responded to more than simply the light beam emanating from the viewer’s palm thanks to four sensors on the TV screen. One television historian observed that “Depending on where the TV was positioned, as the sun rose up, it may really turn the TV on or change the stations.”
The Flashmatic also had a clear disadvantage in terms of business. the price. The equipment, which resembled a child’s toy ray pistol, had an outrageous price tag of roughly $100. Midway through the 1950s, you could still spend around $600 on a brand-new automobile.
Radio waves were one concept. As one researcher put it, “If you were in an apartment building, you may start changing the channel on the TV in the next room as well as your own.” this was swiftly disproved.
The Space Command featured only a few functions controlled by only four buttons, making it simple to grasp and use, like the Flashmatic, its largely mechanical precursor. The gadget was dubbed the “clicker,” a moniker for a TV remote control that some people still use today, since when the buttons were pressed, they made a type of clicking sound inside and struck the rods.
The clicker remained in use until the 1970s when improvements in TV transmission made it too easy to use for new tasks. Ceefax, a text-based service introduced by the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) in 1974, is credited as a pivotal innovation that helped make the four-button remote obsolete. However, most viewers were unable to access the available pages of news, sports, financial, and other information with just a basic four-button remote. It was necessary to design a new remote control with a numeric keypad to dial the various page numbers and toggle between the text service and standard TV watching.
Remote control designers have to discover a new method of interacting with TVs in order to meet the demands of the changing market. They choose infrared light, an established technique in other sectors. The term “clicker” soon lost favor since the infrared TV remote was so much quieter than prior ones.
The advent and growth of cable television in the 1980s and 1990s may have had the most significant impact on the evolution of the TV remote. Additionally, the number of auxiliary devices that could be connected to the TV increased dramatically, including video recorders, DVD players, and gaming consoles, which required more and more buttons on the remote. Some of the models inflated to 92 of them, making them unwieldy, complicated, and unpleasantly unappealing.
Journalist Daniel Engber bemoaned the unexpected overabundance of buttons on a gadget that had been intended to save time in a lengthy piece on the matter in 2012.
The Remote Control Concept
Obviously, the TV remote is just one form of remote control. Other examples include the clicker-operated garage door opener and closure, the lock and unlock systems for car doors, robotic vacuum cleaners, flying drones, music sound systems, etc.
The urge to exert remote control over objects is perhaps as old as humans. In fact, it may be claimed that all human society’s physical advancements, in one way or another, reflect the desire to make societal necessities more easily accessible from a distance.
The following would be a basic explanation of “remote control”:
- Controlling an activity from a distant location is the idea.
- Practice. A tool or method that allows remote control of anything
As weird as it may sound, a road may be seen from this perspective as a type of remote control. For instance, if something important to you is situated at point B but you are at point A, a road would make it simpler for you to go collect it (direct control) or to ask someone who is already there to send it to you (remote control). But there are two issues with this strange parallel. There would be no way to confirm that the message had been sent, to start. Furthermore, there would be no way to guarantee that someone or anything at point B would respond in the way that was wanted.
Perhaps a better comparison would be the telephone. Now that we have a phone, we can make sure that the message gets to point B as soon as someone there says “Hello.” However, we were still unable to guarantee that point B would receive the desired response.
Consequently, it would appear that “remote control” refers to two key components: 1. an assurance that a message sent from one distant place to another is actually received; and 2. a guarantee that the remote location where the message is received reacts as intended.
However, expecting that anything in the real world is guaranteed is utopian; something can always go wrong. The best we can hope for is to be able to reduce the chance of almost to the vanishing point. Given these utopian desiderata and practical restraints, it could be argued that modern remote control first appeared on the scene only as recently as the last decade of the 19th century. And that its development consisted of the following key steps.
The first wireless remote control demonstration was made in 1894 by physicist Oliver Lodge, who used a Branly coherer to move a mirror galvanometer when an electromagnetic wave was created artificially.1895: At a distance of 23 meters, Jagadish Chandra Bose utilizes microwaves to discharge a cannon and ring a bell (75 feet). The demonstration was accomplished by passing the waves through a variety of separating walls in order to make it incredibly believable.
Radio waves are used by engineer Ernest Wilson in 1897 to remotely operate torpedoes and submarines. A U.S. patent application for “An Apparatus for Controlling Mechanism of Moving Vehicle or Vehicles” is made by Nikola Tesla in 1898. He uses radio waves to remotely operate a watercraft, which he dubbed a “teleautomaton,” to publicly display the idea.
1903. “Telekino,” a type of robot that follows instructions sent by electromagnetic waves, is demonstrated by Leonardo Torres Quevedo. Torres Quevedo is frequently credited with developing the essential ideas of the contemporary wireless remote control because of this innovation.
The remote control has seen a series of important advancements since Quevedo (1903), affecting nearly every area of daily living.
For instance, the first wireless remote-controlled model airplane took to the air in 1932 and used technology that was later used to military applications, such as the Wasserfall (Waterfall) missile created by the Germans during World War II.
Many radio manufacturers introduced remote controls for some of their more expensive models by the late 1930s. The Philco Mystery Control (1939) functioned as a battery-operated, low-frequency radio wave transmitter, in contrast to the majority of similar devices, which were wired to the television. Thus, the Philco Mystery Control was the first wireless remote control for a consumer product. It was also the first digital wireless remote control that utilized pulse-count modulation.
As a result of this innovation, consumer-focused remote control use has rapidly increased over the last two or three decades.
Most houses saw significant growth in the number of consumer electronics by the early 2000s, coupled with the number of remote controls required to operate them. By the early 2000s, an average American home had at least four separate remote controls for a number of various devices, including a cable or satellite TV receiver, VCR or digital video recorder, DVD player, TV and audio amplifier, etc., according to the Consumer Electronics Association. These remote controls required the sequential usage of many to function correctly. However, the procedure grew more difficult since there were no established interface standards.
Enter the universal remote, a programmed device that has the control codes for the majority of well-known brands of TVs, stereo systems, DVD players, and other electronic devices.
Many smartphone manufacturers started including infrared emitters in their products in the early 2010s so that users could download or install apps that would allow them to use their smartphones as universal remote controls.
Even more recently, voice-activated remote controls like Alexa and SIRI appear to have taken us into the world of science fiction. The basic technology has been there since the 1950s, but it has only recently started to be used by the general public as a TV remote control.
Infrared (IR) light, or electromagnetic waves with wavelengths from the conventional red end of the visible spectrum at about 700 nanometers up to 1 millimeter and frequencies from around 430 terahertz to 300 gigahertz, is still the primary technology utilized in today’s non-vocal, in-home remote controllers. Pulses of infrared light, which are invisible to the human eye but may be detected by a digital camera, video camera, phone camera, etc.
make up the transmission between the remote control and the device it is operating. A light-emitting diode (LED) that is integrated into the remote’s pointing end serves as the transmitter in many cases. The pattern of infrared light pulses is specific to the button the user presses. The target device’s receiver detects the
Remote Control and Computing
Computers are frequently utilized for remote control, as was just said. Here are a couple of other vivid illustrations.
- The powerful computers within the Mars Rover take instructions from the Earth and transform them into actions on Mars.
- The SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) control systems for electrical grids and other infrastructure receive commands across a network and then configure the infrastructure as needed.
- Robotic warehouses operated by Amazon employ orders to move products around in enormous warehouses quickly in order to ship them.
- Military weapons systems, particularly drones, employ remote control to aim and fire.
The unifying denominator in these instances, as well as several more (the list is practically limitless), is that a local computer receives orders from a remote computer and then converts those commands into local implementation.
At a more technical level, software-defined networks (SDN) receive general commands about desired capacity between various network endpoints and then configure the network routers to provide the needed capacity on the appropriate links.
In computing, the abbreviation RC can certainly mean remote control in the sense of a TV remote control. However, RC has a number of other interesting meanings. Here are a few of them.
- RC (remote control). Anything that may be controlled wirelessly by a remote device is often referred to as RC. As was already mentioned, Nikola Tesla received a patent for the first such RC device in 1898.
- RC (release candidate). A software application that is still being tested but is close to being released is called a release candidate. The release candidate is made available (issued) to the public if no significant problems are discovered. Going silver is a common term used to describe when software reaches the RC stage of the software life cycle. Going gold would be the following phase.
- RC (remote connection, also known as remote access). a tool for gaining access to shared resources. Example: To view emails, a user connects their home computer remotely to their company’s network.
The word RC (not capitalized) is another helpful one. Run commands is the name extension for this type of file (run control). An rc file is a collection of statements or instructions that are placed one per line in Unix-like operating systems like Linux and are then executed or assessed by the shell. Its job is to set up the shell so that it runs in a specific fashion. The same principle also holds true for other applications; for instance, “.mailrc” initializes and configures the mail program for the particular user environment software.
“Remote-control software” is another helpful computing phrase that refers to the idea of remote control. Programming in a central or server computer that is used to remotely control other computers (or their users) at a distance, either at the direction of an administrator or at the request of the user, is known as remote-control software (RCS). The World Wide Web has essentially created a platform on which anyone can create a new remote-control application that can reach millions of computers and their users, despite the fact that RCS (remote-control software) already existed before it (for remote diagnosis of computer problems and other purposes).
RCS is generally divided into classes of applications:
- “Remote-control software” is another helpful computing phrase that refers to the idea of remote control. Programming in a central or server computer that is used to remotely control other computers (or their users) at a distance,
- either at the direction of an administrator or at the request of the user, is known as remote-control software (RCS). The World Wide Web has essentially created a platform on which anyone can create a new remote-control application that can reach millions of computers and their users, despite the fact that RCS (remote-control software) already existed before it (for remote diagnosis of computer problems and other purposes).
- Here’s some good news regarding the omnipresent (and essential) TV remote control, which served as the catalyst for this entire conversation. It is simple to put an end to the suffering, anxiety, and anguish that come with misplacing or discovering a broken TV remote. There are basically two approaches.
You are welcome to have a spare remote. If kept near to the TV, an extra remote that only costs a few dollars will always be on hand in case of need.
You may set up your computer hardware, including your laptop, tablet, and smartphone, to function as a TV remote. The precise process for turning a smartphone into a TV remote varies depending on the smartphone’s brand, operating system, and other considerations, but it is typically relatively simple.