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November 1, 2014

Three Bad Things About One Great Invention, the Remote Control

by Bob Sassone, posted Apr 12th 2010 5:02PM
remoteRegardless of what I just said in that headline, let me assure you: I love my remote control! It's the device that tells me "you don't have to just sit there and watch what's on. You have options!" It's perfect for someone who watches a lot of television, vital for someone who writes about television, and it really is the can opener of the living room. It's the tool you absolutely need.

Having said all that, there are several problems I see with having something so convenient at your fingertips as you watch the tube.

1. We're all overweight. I realized the other day that I haven't been closer than ten feet from my television set in many years. I have no reason to walk up to it and change the channels or change the volume, thanks to my remote, and when was the last time you had to fix the color or the vertical hold or the contrast? Even if you had to do those things you can do them from your remote control now. I'm not even sure what all of the buttons on the front of my TV say or what the back of the set looks like. Having to get up to change the channel might remind me that, well, I have to get up off the couch once in a while.

I'm not saying that if we don't use our remotes we'll all have the abs of a Men's Health cover model, but it can't hurt. Hey, if you can burn calories while sleeping, imagine how many calories you'd burn if you got up and down from the couch and walked over to the TV to change the channel 20 times a day.

2. We all have some form of ADD now. I remember watching a story by Robert Krulwich on ABC News several years ago talking about how our brains have actually been reprogrammed because of how fast everything moves now and how fast we expect things to be. The editing of videos, microwave ovens, and all of the other gadgets that make life happen quicker have actually changed the way we think. One of the examples he showed was the way we can't even just wait for an elevator door to close anymore we have to hit "close."

The remote control has contributed to that thinking. Our attention spans are so short now I bet a lot of you haven't even read down this far in the article, have you? Too bad, everyone reading this paragraph wins a new car!*

I find myself getting impatient with web sites and TV channels all the time, typing in a new URL or going to my bookmarks and going to a different site, hitting the channel changer button on my TV remote after viewing just 1.7 seconds of what's on a particular channel. Remote controls + speed + multitasking = a really messed up brain.

3. It has changed the way we watch TV (and how networks program shows). Once upon a time, viewers would hear about a show, put it on, and then sit down on the couch and watch it. Because we didn't have an Super Insta-Channel Changer in our laps, we'd actually sit down for a while and give the show a chance. True, remotes have been around for many decades, but we weren't as obsessed with channel surfing as we have been the past several years. The web and video games and the increasing number of cable channels and that ADD have changed all that.

This doesn't mean that 'Three Rivers' would have been a top five show if we didn't have remote controls, but it does mean that viewers would be a bit more forgiving with shows, give them more time, and we'd be a little bit more methodical when it comes to the TV shows we watch. While the web and TiVo and time-shifted viewing factors into all of this, I think a world of remote controls would have a lot of impact on how we watch TV and how the networks approached the programming of shows.

All this doesn't mean I'm going to give up my remote control. I am the Charlton Heston of remote control holders.

You're probably thinking, what if I gave up my remote control and accidentally found 'Jerry Springer' on, what would I do? Well, you could always do an Elvis.

*Offer not valid on Earth.

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Aml

Personally, I live on the moon, so please send the car to NASA, which will forward it on to me. Also, please don't make it a Toyota, even if we don't have gravity they are still dangerous.

(Sorry, Bob I had to do it.)

April 12 2010 at 6:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andrew

What are you going to do when the inhabitants of Jupiter demand their free cars?

April 12 2010 at 5:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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