The ultimate remote

I'm a guy who likes things big. I've got a big TV with huge 7.1 channel surround speakers. I like big. I'm going to get a matching sized — I mean colossal — remote for my big TV and big sound system.

Yep, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) decided its time to reassess remote controls. What used to be a little bitty, black five-button device is going to grow up, literally. And, to make sure it does, the CEA has formed a subcommittee to oversee the design.

As a kid, I remember my grandfather having a really cool TV remote called the Zenith Space Commander. About the size of your hand, it used two small hammers to strike one of a pair of hollow tubes inside the device. When struck, the bars would emit an ultrasonic tone, which the TV set could hear.

Pressing the channel change button tripped the hammer above one tube and the channel knob rotated clockwise, stopping on the next preprogrammed station. Once the channel knob reached the zero position, the TV set would turn off. You'd have to click the channel button again to turn it on and wait while the channel knob slowly rotated to the next TV station.

The owner could hit the sound button, and the sound would go up a preset amount and stop. Hit the button a couple more times, and the sound would reach the maximum and decrease back to a low volume. As I recall, there were about four or five preset volume levels.

Because the control signal was ultrasonic, other devices also could operate the TV set. My grandfather could jingle his car keys or his dog could rattle her dog tags, and the TV would either change channels or change volume — maybe both.

Ah, the good old days. Today, the CEA's subcommittee is charged with implementing new remote control standards. Broadcast Engineering has received a secret list of some of the new functions to be included:

  • All offEverything in your whole house will turn off.
  • All onEverything in your whole house will turn on.
  • RandomEverything in your house will begin turning on and off randomly. Press “all off” to stop the process.
  • Neighbor on/offTurns your neighbor's TV on or off. A caveat: Your neighbor may have one too.
  • Dog offNote, there is no “dog on” button.
  • GoogleGoogle overtakes your TV, remembers everything you've watched for the past 10 years and sends a monthly report to the Chinese government.
  • FoodEvery restaurant within 50 miles pops up on your TV set with phone numbers. Trying to remain politically correct, the CEA committee can't decide whether users need separate Northern Italian and Southern Italian food buttons. After all, there's currently only one Mexican food button.
  • Cell phoneYep, your new TV remote is also a cell phone. A monthly report of all your phone calls is also sent to the Chinese government, along with a separate list of dirty words you said.

If these functions had been part of Space Command, my dog shaking her tags could have potentially triggered Google to connect my cell phone to a North Italian restaurant in Mexico for carryout. Or worse, the jingle jangle of my keys could send my neighbor a report of all the four-lettered words I used before pressing the “neighbor off” button.

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