Saturday, August 13, 2005


As anyone who owns a TV will tell you, remotes have a life of their own.

They run away. They hide. They somehow manage to spontaneously disappear, then turn up three days later in the most unlikely of locations.

Of course, the human element plays a big part in this. I have personally spent 10 minutes looking for a remote before finding it…in my hand.

I’ve also done really dumb things like carry the remote with me to the kitchen without thinking. Then I open the fridge, put the remote on a shelf in the fridge while I pull out the Pepsi, pour my drink, then close the fridge on the remote. I then spend hours searching, and only find it when I give up and go back to the fridge for a drink.

However, whether you put ‘TV Remote Physics’ down to human error, alien conspiracies or unintentional psycho-kinesis, the truth is, they vanish.

Remote organizers don’t help. You know, those things you hang off the side of the sofa. You see, you have to take the remote out to use it…and once it leaves its little cubby, it instantly becomes a 6 inch bigfoot. You start to doubt its existence at all.

This leads to what I call TVRMS, or Television Remote Madness Syndrome.

TVRMS is the reason most men begin to sweat if they have to hand the remote to anyone. Not only are they giving up control of the TV (which is the same experience as a dyed in the wool dictator giving up his power), they also know that once the remote is more than a foot away from his body, it will vanish to the Land Of The Lost (that same location that the other sock and the disposable pens end up).

Some people descend so far into TVRMS, that they start to do truly crazy things. There is a person I know in England who absolutely insists that the remote is left on top of the TV. In order to stop losing his remote, he will get up, walk to his TV, pick up the remote, change the channel, replace the remote and then sit down again.

TVRMS is a real disease. Only some deep seated psychological trauma can cause behaviour like this.

It seems logical, he never loses his remote, but by leaving it on top of the TV, he’s rendering it completely redundant. It’s like bricking a car up in the garage to prevent it from being stolen. Effective, but kinda removes the point of owning a car.

A while back I had an idea. A complete and total cure for TVRMS.

When I first moved to the USA, we bought a new phone. Now this is a good phone, all the bells and whistles you don’t need, but really, really want. For example, it has both base unit and handset speakerphone…it will even ‘read’ the caller ID, and announce who is calling. (as an aside, this feature is strange, it can handle names like Juronkzuweenu without a hitch, but mispronounces names like ‘Smith’ and ‘Roberts’).

However, my favourite feature is the handset locator. If the handset goes missing, you push a button on the base unit, and the handset starts beeping. Then you simply follow the sound.

So I thought, why not have this with TV remotes? The technology exists. Just put a little button on your TV that when you press it, your remote starts bleeping. Problem solved.

I had dreams of fame, fortune and glory. This was one of those ideas that is so ridiculously simple, that anyone could have thought of it…and inventions that anyone could have thought of seem to be the most rare (like the plastic things on the end of shoelaces to stop them fraying, or reflectors in the road, or the little plastic handle to stop you burning yourself on those plastic disposable cups). My favourite invention of all time was invented by a builder. He got sick of housewives complaing about the mess he left on their floors after he’d had to drill the walls. So one day he laid a plastic sandwich bag against the wall before he started drilling…and it caught the dust.

He had a brainwave, and designed tiny little plastic bags that had post-it-note glue on one side. You stick it to the wall and drill through it. A very simple idea, and it made him a billionaire in less than a week.

As for my invention, unfortunately, after a little research, my dreams died.

You see, the problem with this idea is that the technology behind it already exists. Someone already owns the patent.

This means that any TV manufacturer who includes it as a feature will find themselves paying a royalty to the patent holder…and the cost of an extra couple of dollars for every TV made adds up to billions.

So unfortunately, chances are. We’ll never see bleeping remotes. (I mean actual bleeping remotes, that wasn’t an effort to hide a swearword.)

It’s amazing just how many great inventions will never see the light of day because either someone already holds a patent to similar technology, or just through politics.

There used to be a show on the Discovery Channel where inventors would showcase their inventions, and a ‘product champion’ (read: Agent) would pick a winner and represent the product and try and get it made.

On one particular episode, it came down to two people. One had invented a way that through all kids of gears a pulleys, you could make a boat oar that would allow you to row, but head in the direction you’re facing (when you move the oar backwards, the blade goes forwards in the water, and vice-versa).

It was a good idea, but not great. It looked like it would take a lot of maintenance, would stop working a lot…and to be honest…who cares?

The second guy had a great, and simple invention. He’d discovered that when disposable razors went ‘blunt’, a lot of the time it was because limescale and crud buildup on the blade. So he designed himself a little device to remedy the problem. Basically it was a wheel covered in felt. You pushed the blade down onto the wheel, the wheel would spin and clean the blade.

They demonstrated it live on the show. They took a well used razor, and gave it to someone to try out. Obviously, being blunt, it hurt like hell.

Then they cleaned the razor on the guy’s little device (it was about the size of a cigarette packet). It took less than two seconds, and the buy testing it was amazed. His actual words were: “This feels like a new razor!”

‘No contest!’ I thought. ‘Few people use rowboats regularly, but 99% of men shave every day!’

I was impressed. You see, my hair is very thick a wiry. I put a new blade in my Mach III Turbo, and it’s unusable in four shaves. I wanted one of this guy’s devices, it would save me a whole buttload of cash.

However, the ‘Product Champion’ dismissed it out of hand.

“It’s a great idea.” He said. “But you’ll never get it on the market. You’re basically trying to sell a product that extends the life of someone else’s product. If you can double the life of a disposable razor, you’ll be halving the razor company’s profits.”

The inventor gave an answer along the lines of ‘So? That’s not my problem.”

The Product Champion continued: “Unfortunately, razor manufacturers like Gillette and Bic have lots and lots of money. If you tried to release this, they’d take you to court because it would be their products that this is designed for.”

The inventor used a TV-friendly way of saying that was complete and utter bullshit, but the Product Champion put it into simple terms:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re right. Gillette and Bic are multi-billion dollar companies. If they take you to court, you’ll lose.”

So in the end, the winner was the guy with the crazy oars.

It seems that everything comes down to money. If you invent something that will make lots of it, chances are you’ll get it on the market…as long as it won’t take money away from anyone who is already richer than you.


Anonymous said...

First of all sorry to Paul for using his Blog as a platform, the only reason I'm doing this is that I don't have one and my non-computer literate brain (I have compu-lexia) wouldn't be able to work out how to organise one........
My general wondering is this: I read the blogs pretty much everyday from my brother, sunny Mike, Cindy, Laziest girl and a few others linked to the aformentioned blogs and the question I had was; do any of you know what eachother look like (apart from Cindy's chin)?
I find it really entertaining reading your Blogs in work everyday, (apart from when my brother posts one thats mostly made up of numbers and Ghz!). I've built up pictures of what I imagine you all look like in my mind and would really like to see how accurate I am.
As I said before I use my home computer mostly for music and movies so I'm not too well up on internettiquette (that was a good one) so if this offends I apologise. Just goes to show I'm the type of person who responds to visual stimulus, or maybe I'm missing the whole fun of blogging and the real enjoyment is the anonimity? Put it down to my lack of imagination or whatever but I just don't understand how you can build up what is for all intents and purposes a relationship with all these people you might never meet and you'll never know what they look like...........?? Hmmmm

Miz S said...

LOL- Is that anything like my Car Key Madness Syndrome?

You know me- even those little bleepie things wouldn't do much good. especially after i close the locked door behind me.


MC Etcher said...

Nope, nary a clue about what these people look like... Except Cindy of course, since I took the picture...And she's my wife.

Perdita said...

About 7 years ago a friend of mine had a TV with one of those things. I don't know why they quit making them. But with the number of remotes people seem to have to have anymore, that is a whole other invention (keep thinking). I can't do anything to my TV without a remote. It almost makes me miss the old dial models.

Anon: Can you respond to avatars, or do you Reeeally NEED to know what someone looks like to talk to, with, at them?

Jennifer Gardner said...

lol, good job. Will continue to read your blog in the future...

Vicarious Living said...

where'd you go?
time for a new post!

Sunny & Paulius said...

"We had a lightning strike ... fried our computer! We'll be back as soon as we can get a new one.

P.S. We are not happy campers (literally). The cat is our only entertainment!"

MC Etcher said...

Glad you're both alive!

Kato said...

I don't have a particularly large apartment but I still manage to lose my remote. I too have wandered off to random places with the remote in tow, like to the bedroom, or the kitchen (I've left it there, though not in the fridge), and once even to the bathroom. I stopped myself, realizing that no good could come of leaving the remote in the bathroom.

My computer desk is next to my couch, and I have a tendency to get up from the couch and go to the computer, bringing the remote with me so I can flip around while I'm doing other stuff. I will inevitably leave it sitting on the desk and go back to the couch, only to lament it moments later when I see it is missing. You would think I was being asked to do chores or something by the way I moan to myself about having to get up and grabe the remote which is scant feet away!