"Has been a lifesaver so many times!"
- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington
"Exactly the help I needed."
- Jennifer Hawes, student @ San Jose State
"The best place for brainstorming ideas."
- Michael Majchrowicz, student @ University of Kentucky
You know the feeling. You can’t turn on the big game without one. You can’t listen to your stereo system without one. DVD? Nope! Where is the damn thing? I’m holding three, but they’re not the right one. The “remote” always seem to be just that… remote.
Your typical American can have anywhere from four to six to eight remotes to control any number of electronic machines. Just looking at them and trying to comprehend their function is utterly overwhelming. The sizes differ just as much as the items they control. Line the remotes up on a coffee table and they almost look like a squadron of high-powered military aircraft on the deck of an aircraft carrier capable of who knows what with all those buttons. Funny thing is the remote is almost as important to our peaceful, domestic well being as those aircraft are to our peaceful, domestic national safety. And of all the impressive aircraft we have at our disposal here in America, I think the remote is most like the stealth fighter because we’re always fighting to find it.
Take the television remote for instance. It is the king of importance and is always the hardest to find. You end up missing the first quarter of the big game because you’ve torn up the whole house looking for the now invisible remote. What happened to the stereo remote? Is it under the couch cushion or the couch itself? Is it even in the room? The other remotes don’t help because you need the specific one for the specific electronic machine. Funny thing is, despite all of their individual features, they all share one certain function: getting lost, or “going stealth” as I call it, and then the search is on for one of the many.
Many Americans don’t even look at it as odd behavior to have what seems like an infinite number of remotes. Look at the many electronic machines that have remotes: TV’s, VCR’s, DVD players, CD players, stereo systems, garage doors, window blinds, car security systems, even some gas fireplaces come with remote control units! Some day every item we buy will be remote controlled in some way. For some this is a good thing, but I’m not so sure.
What are we doing? More importantly, what are the remotes doing to us? By using remotes we end up removing ourselves from contact with the things we own and enjoy. Can this be good for us? By becoming so dependent on these little leisure-enhancing machines, we forget to notice during our blundering around that there are controls right on the larger machines. We have become so automatic in our mindless routines that we look at it as a chore if we have to get up and go turn on or off the TV or the stereo. Amazingly enough, in our panic and frustration to locate the “stealth” remote, we walk right by the machine we wish to turn on.
Does this happen elsewhere in the world, or is it an American problem? What would Ralph Waldo Emerson say about such a “convenience?” Today’s Americans have forgotten Emerson’s whole idea of self-reliance. In his essay “Self-Reliance” Emerson says “The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet…and it may be a question whether machinery does not encumber…” With their present machinery, American’s have become distant…remote… by using these remotes, and we are further removing ourselves from the self-reliance that we once had.
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Remote control, Assistive technology, Consumer electronics, Television technology, Humanmachine interaction, Car alarm, Universal remote
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