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12 Feb 2010


Friday’s Food for Thought: Life Without a Remote Control

Added by Category: Friday's Food for Thought, General

Welcome once again to the Friday’s Food for Thought post on got geoint? Remember life before television remote controls? It seems like ages ago, but there was a time when you had to get up from off the couch and change the channel manually. Fortunately, back then — prior to the advent of cable television — there were only about four channels to choose from. How does this tie into GEOINT? Well, we did several posts this week about Commercial Remote Sensing (CRS), so how could we not dive into the concept of remote technologies and daily life? So, read on and enjoy. And for those who have been snow bound this week, hopefully, this post will be a fun respite from all that shoveling. Happy Friday!

History of the Remote Control
The first machines to be operated by remote control were used mainly for military purposes. Radio-controlled motorboats, developed by the German navy, were used to ram enemy ships in WWI. Radio controlled bombs and other remote control weapons were used in WWII. Once the wars were over, United States scientists experimented to find nonmilitary uses for the remote control. In the late 1940′s automatic garage door openers were invented, and in the 1950′s the first TV remote controls were used. Zenith began playing around with the idea of a TV remote control in the early 1950′s. They developed one in 1952 called “Lazy Bones,” which was a long cable that was attached to the TV set. Pushing buttons on the remote activated a motor that would rotate the tuner in the set. This type of remote wasn’t popular for long considering that, at the time, there were very few channels to choose from. Read more here.

Definition of “Remote Control”
Amazing how Wikipedia has a citation for pretty much anything. Not that we needed to look up the definition of “remote control,” but since it’s on Wikipedia, we thought we would highlight it today. A remote control is a component of an electronics device, most commonly a television set, used for operating the device wirelessly from a short line-of-sight distance. The term remote control can be contracted to remote or controller. It is known by many other names as well, such as clicker, didge, flipper, the tuner or the changer. Commonly, remote controls are Consumer IR devices used to issue commands from a distance to televisions or other consumer electronics such as stereo systems, DVD players and dimmers. Read more here.

Life Before Remote Controls
It’s like something from the Arabian Nights! From across the room – without ever leaving your easy chair – you can change television channels with a small control that fits into your hand. Just press lightly with your thumb. That’s all there is to it. That’s an early print advertisement for a Zenith remote control. Sounds kind of silly right now. But, it seemed revolutionary at the time. Competitive markets change everyday. Sometimes, industries get changed forever. The invention of the remote control changed the television industry forever. Who wants to purchase a television set without a remote control? Zenith forced each of its competitors to change their business practices immediately. That’s what we’re doing. Read the full Two Maids blog post here.

A Remote Control That Blogs What You Are Watching: No Joke

Doesn’t everyone want a remote control that automatically blogs about what you’re watching? Apparently engineers at IBM think so. The Baltimore Sun reports that they’re developing a TV remote control that can be programmed to auto-blog while you watch whatever it is you want to watch. Here’s a snippet from IBM’s patent filing for this technology: A viewer selects a media program to view by use of a remote controller with networking capability. Upon the viewer wishing to send a blog posting to a blog, the viewer determines whether a tag to be included in the blog posting is to be a pre-existing tag or a custom tag, wherein the blog posting comprises program information about the media program useful to identify the media program. If the tag is to be a pre-existing tag, the viewer selects the pre-existing tag from a plurality of pre-existing tags using the remote controller and if the tag is to be a custom tag, the viewer generates the custom tag using the remote controller. If a protocol provided by the remote controller to send the blog posting to the blog allows a snapshot of the media program to be included in the blog posting, the remote controller takes the snapshot of the media program and includes it in the blog posting. Wow.

Brain Remote Control

Throw away that remote control — you may not need it any longer. Having battles with your partner for control of the TV flicker? Your next skirmish may be who can change the channel faster to watch your favorite program, without even lifting a finger. Breaking technology developed by Hitachi could let you control electronics simply by reading your brain activity. The ‘brain-machine interface’ developed by Hitachi analyzes slight changes in the brain’s blood flow and translates brain motion into electric signals. Read the full Life in The Fast Lane blog post here.

MTV’s Remote Control: Going Back to 1989
Remember MTV’s 1989 underground hit show “Remote Control”? It was very low-fi and was simply a television trivia show that launched the illustrious careers of Colin Quinn and Kari Wuhrer (note the irony here). Anyhow, check out this vintage episode with text commentary from one of the show’s contestants.

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