The Curse of the Remote

I’m a self confessed IT dinosaur. My children would agree. Seriously. Do you know anyone who can’t answer a simple video call on their mobile? I’m one of those. Does not matter if I swype left, swype right, swype up, swype down, or simply hold, it does not work. My mobile hates me. Whenever my son calls from Darwin he knows Mum will not be able to take the call. He waits for me to call back.

I’m one of that rare breed – challenged when it comes to navigating the modern world filled with devices of one kind or another. I still belong to the ever decreasing minority who think phones should be for the making and taking of phone calls. And texting. I have progressed that far. I even swype. Although I struggle with the autocorrect and word prediction functions that throw emoticons willy nilly into the middle of my prose. And predict what words I want to use. What is that about?! If angry emoticonI wanted a pretty picture in the middle of my prose, I would put a pretty picture in the middle of my prose myself. Like the two year old who stamps her foot and says “do it myself!” I want to choose the words I use without any help thank you very much, however well meaning its intention may be. I know what I want to say. And how I want to say it.

Gone are those days. In our hands we hold mini computers. Computers that are more powerful than the one that landed the men on the moon back fifty years ago.

If you are one of my number – the gently ageing – you will probably relate to this. The weekend magazine published a column by Mark Dapin that resonated with me so strongly I want to share it with you –

“I was a very early adopter of pay-TV.

In 1972, when I was 10 years old, my mum left my dad for a younger man – so young, in fact, that he was still a student.

We were poor, so we moved into a “flat” (this was in England, see) where I was forced to share a room with my younger brother.

My dad was willing to rent us a TV, but only if my mum couldn’t watch it. This meant the TV stayed in the kids’ room – and the adults had to ask our permission to watch it.

This was absolutely fantastic – the undoubted high point of my life to that date (and, in fact, things have never got much better since).

But the TV was coin-operated, and we had to drop 10 pence (provided weekly, I think, by my dad) into a box welded to the back of the set to get four hours of viewing. When the money ran out, the TV turned itself off – as often as not, in the middle of a show.

I didn’t watch much TV as an adult, perhaps haunted by the memory of missing the last few minutes of my favourite series, The World at War, and spending the next week uncertain whether the Allies or the Axis had won World War II.

This all changed at the turn of the millennium, when God made The Sopranos and TV suddenly became something grown-ups could enjoy without feeling like they needed a lobotomy to get on the same mental level as the screenwriters. I began to like watching television so much that I even asked my partner how to turn it on. She directed me to a button on the side of the screen.

The problem was, I wanted to binge on boxed sets of DVDs and watch shows recorded when I was asleep (which is virtually all the time), which meant I had to learn to operate the DVD player/hard-disk recorder.

I had not fully realised, but first they had come for the knobs – and I did not speak out, because I was not a knob.

All the knobs in the world had vanished overnight (while I was asleep) to be replaced by remote controls. So now we had a remote control for the TV and another for the DVD player. I couldn’t see why I needed a remote control at all since I sit – at the very furthest – about a metre from the screen, but I appeared to have no choice. It took me a while to learn how to use the TV remote, then a while longer to figure out the DVD remote, then somewhat longer than a while to get it into my head that to switch between TV and DVD I had to move from antennae, which I understand, to something called HDMI 1, which I don’t, but eventually (after about three years) I mastered it all.

Then, for the second time in my life, I encountered pay-TV, albeit in a more sophisticated version than the earlier, coin-operated iteration.

We bought Apple TV so we could watch shows purchased from iTunes. This meant the addition of another box and another remote control. After a couple of tantrums, I was able to add Apple TV to my repertoire of devices – and we were even able to use it to watch Netflix – and I was feeling quite smug by the time we bought my son a PlayStation.

I had no idea of the chaos this would cause, as we somehow ended up having to watch TV through the PlayStation – and moving between channels using the toggles on the PS4 controller, as if we were playing a computer game. The equivalent experience for my generation might be changing radio stations by kicking a football at the wireless.

Next came Telstra TV, which we had to buy because Optus refused to service our connection. Telstra TV comes with a brilliant remote control, which has “Foxtel” and “Netflix” written on two buttons in really big letters – but it can’t be operated through the PlayStation.

At this point, my father-in-common-law bought us a universal remote control, which should have obviated the need for all the other controls but doesn’t work because, apparently, it won’t “talk to” the PlayStation – so it just sits in a pile with all the other remote controls.

Then we bought an HDMI switch. I just asked my partner what this does, and she replied in Mongolian. Whatever its purpose, although we now own seven remote controls, I can no longer turn on the f**king TV.”

Raili Tanska

Face life’s challenges with grace

7 thoughts on “The Curse of the Remote

  1. 🙂 i can slightly relate to your tv issue………there is one tv in our home that has so many darn remotes, i just don’t get it. every time i want to watch it i have to call one of my teens to help me.

  2. Lol – I’m the same.
    Once life was simple. We had 4 channels. Everybody tended to watch the same stuff and we’d go into school/work and have interesting discussions on what we had seen.
    Now we have to pay for all the different slices of what you want to watch and they carve it up so that you have to keep buying extra slices to get to see what you used to see for free. You have 4 billion channels but all but four of them are utter rubbish. Nobody watches the same stuff at the same time so all those conversations have gone. It’s costing you an arm and a leg, it takes a year to find what it is you wanted to see.
    This is progress.
    Progress obviously means some very rich people becoming a lot richer at the expense of everyone else.

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