Friday, 29 October 2010

Remote controls 60 years on

Remarkable how things pass you by. This week is (FX: DRUM ROLL) the 60th anniversary of the remote control. I know what you're thinking - we all thought those were really snazzy in our teens and only the really posh kids at school had them, and that was about 30 years ago.

So remotemeister Logitech, whose control (below with an Amazon link - and in the interests of openness let me declare I get a per centage for purchases made through this) I use, has commissioned some research. For example a third of us, they reckon, would rather give up sex for a month than lose control of the TV (people say all sorts of things to researchers, don't they?)

More interestingly, I suggest (and more believably), over three quarters of people think remote controls are too complicated while the number of UK residents owning more than four remotes has increased to 52%. One in five of us has had to write down instructions on how to use the remote controls for babysitters and other visitors who'll be there while we're out.

This is why one of my favourite gadgets is indeed my multiple remote. I use a Logitech as above and if I had the right light switches installed and heating controls I could use it to control those as well as the telly.

I would of course be very frustrated when, inevitably, I lose it down the back of the sofa again. I've also had to wait for the database to catch up with some of my technology; Logitech (and no doubt other manufacturers) has an online database; you plug the remote into your computer, tell it which gadgets you use and if they're not on there (like 3D tellies weren't a couple of weeks ago) then it tries to find something almost compatible and uses that as a template. So I've found it works on the Sky box, it works on turning the TV on and off but it won't change the input so I can watch a DVD yet (I'm planning to try again this weekend as the database is updated all the time).

They're also useless, then, if you don't have broadband and not everybody does. I bought my mother a cheaper model (below with another Amazon link) for her birthday - a less snazzy screen but she's fine with that - and because she doesn't use broadband she hasn't set it up. I've offered to do it for her but as she's pointed out more than reasonably, this would mean I'd have to take it away and re-program it if she ever dared buy a new TV or DVD player, or opt for satellite.

Once it's fully assimilated your models of TV and accessories (and my Logitech impressively recognised the new Apple TV on day one), a combined remote does indeed reduce clutter and is pretty useful. I prefer the models with more room for expansion into other gadgets - clearly the one above, which handles up to four devices, will work better for many people.

Logitech also does a much more expensive several-hundred-quid version, which they're sending me to have a play with. I'll report back; at the moment I'm doubtful that a remote that costs more than some high def TVs can be worth the money.


  1. The really expensive Logitech remote was, until recently, based on much older technology that the Harmony One, which is a fantastic bit of kit. The new 1100 looks interesting, but I don't think your comparison makes sense. Yes, it might be more than some (hopeless, low-end) high def TVs, but to need a Harmony 1100 you're likely to have £1000+ of TV, DVD, AV etc, so as a percentage of the total it's not that outrageous...

    At the other end of the scale, I've just ordered a 300 to replace the Sky+ remote on my son's Multiroom box...

  2. Thanks for that, Guy. Without actually seeing it I'm unable to comment on the Harmony 1100 - but if you can download info on all of the devices you're likely to need for a cheaper Harmony, why would you actually *need* to spend hundreds on the remote?

  3. Surely, now everyone has an iPhone (or equivalent) then that should be the remote. I have a Sonos hifi. (no % paid for endorsement) but Apple-esque in terms of look and easy of set up for music around the home.

    They remote is $200+ but their iPad and iTouch, iPhone apps are free and FAR superior.

  4. Does that work with your television, Ian? I wouldn't be surprised if there were an app but I didn't think every phone had infra-red.


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