I’ve been getting a lot of headaches lately and I finally realized it’s from watching television. Not from the content, just from the process. Please take a look at the picture above. These are my remotes. These are the essential tools that allow me to watch tv and DVD’s. Bear with me as I walk you through it.
The remote on the left is for the tv itself. It turns the tv on and off, selects the input and adjusts the volume of the tv. It can also change the channel but that only works if you have a tv antenna or rabbit ears and is mainly for people off the grid. It also does a bunch of stuff that I don’t understand. You can see it has 39 buttons. I use 2 of ‘em – the ‘on/off’ button and the ‘input’ button when I want to watch a DVD. The other buttons I ignore until the tv is not working right and it’s during the Stanley Cup final. That’s when I start pressing any button I can get my hands on.
If I could now direct your attention to the remote to the right of the tv controller. This one works my cable receiver. It turns the cable box on and off, selects the channel and adjusts the volume of the tv. It also has a tv guide and allows you to record shows you’re not watching so you can also not watch them at a later date. It has 47 buttons. I know some of you are going to tell me that you can program the cable remote to also work the tv. I tried that and found that if both units are turned on and then somebody who shall remain nameless (actually Mrs. Nameless) turns off the tv using the tv remote, they are now out of sync because the tv is off but the cable box is still on. So when you press the cable remote on/off button, the tv comes on but the cable box goes off. You then use the tv remote to turn the tv on and they’re back in sync until you-know-who once again weaves her magic.
Before moving on I should also mention that some channels are Standard Def while others are Hi Def. Not only are the Standard Def pictures crappier, they’re also smaller. Why have a 42” screen if you‘re only getting a 28” picture? But if you look at the cable remote, one of the buttons says ‘Aspect’. You press on it a few times and it might solve the problem. If it doesn’t, you go back to the tv remote and there’s a button marked ‘P-size’ which is a particularly sensitive issue for a man of my age. Why can’t they call it ‘Aspect’ like the cable remote does? It does the same thing. Anyway you keep pressing one or both of those and you will eventually get the right sized picture until you go back to Hi Def and then it’ll be way too big. I’m starting to get another headache.
Please join me in moving one more remote to the right. This one controls the audio receiver. In today’s society, the speakers inside a television are only good enough for the people at the absolute bottom level of the socio-economic spectrum. To truly enjoy the television experience you must have 1,000 watts of amplification driving 8 external speakers and a sub-woofer. My wife and I insist on watching Wheel of Fortune in surround sound. So this remote turns on the audio receiver and controls its volume. It obviously does a lot of other stuff because it has a total of 48 buttons making it the most complex and least used remote in the herd.
And just to make things even more fun, the sound from the external speakers is slightly delayed from the sound of the tv so you can’t have them all on at the same time or it’s like somebody yelling in a cave. The solution is to turn the volume all the way down on the tv. You can do that with either the tv remote or the cable remote so that’s a huge break.
And finally we come to the DVD remote. It opens and closes the DVD player and makes the DVD play, pause, fast forward and reverse. That sounds reasonable but why does it have 45 buttons? Excuse me while I pop a couple of Tylenol.
When I was a kid we had a 17” black and white tv and my Dad was in charge. He must have been in pretty good shape because he never needed a remote. He would just walk from the lazy boy all the way to the tv. Like it was nothing. He would then bend over and pull out one knob and that would turn the tv on. Then he would adjust the volume using, you’re not gonna believe this, THE SAME KNOB. Then he would click a dial around to the channel he wanted. There was a plastic ring around that dial that was supposed to adjust the reception. It never really did anything but Dad would turn it anyway just to look important.
My Dad accomplished a lot in his life and now I know why. When he watched tv, he only had one switch and one dial to deal with. When I watch tv, I’m faced with 179 buttons. It’s less complicated for a pilot to fly a 747 than it is for me to watch Say Yes to the Dress.
And the worst part is that somewhere deep down inside of me, I get this feeling that I’m falling behind. That I’m not capable of working with modern technology. I don’t need the tv to tell me I’m stupid. That’s not a new message. They even call them “Smart tv’s” now. That’s not lost on me. It’s a warning. If you’re stupid, don’t buy one of these. So tonight my wife and I have decided not to watch tv at all. Instead we’re gonna have a conversation. Not sure how we’ll kill the rest of the half hour.