By Gerard ’t Hooft

My Fulmination Page


Remote controles 1.

“Here is my TV, here are my remote controls. This is how you handle them. Have a nice evening”.  Did anyone tell you this, and did you have a nice evening? I have the same problem whenever I am asked to babysit for my grand children. Three remote controls, one for the TV monitor, one for the cable company, and one for the broadcast company. That’s 3 times 50 buttons.  147 of those buttons do not function as indicated (many of them have an unintelligible color code). Usually, you switch on the TV with one remote, then you choose the channel with another one, but first also push a button on the third one. Which buttons? Ah, you forgot? Which remote was for what? You forgot that too? Indeed, they are all exactly alike. They all give you the impression that there are on- and off- buttons, they all have volume and channel control, brightness, the whole lot. You press the wrong button. A screen pops up: “this is to switch from system XPGGtt1 to system Cable/antenna DDSQW. Do you want this? Yes No” 

My hosts had said nothing about such choices, so the obvious answer is “NO!!!” But which remote control should I use to give that command? None of the remotes seem to work as hoped. My choice is quickly made: by pressing all the red buttons I can find, eventually the screen switches off. No TV this evening.

What’s the reason for this mess? Long ago, in antiquity, all you needed to do is operate some buttons on the TV. Those buttons were easy to find and easy to identify. Not anymore. Why do we need to operate three incompatible remote controls to be able to watch the news? It turns out that today, everyone who has a TV needs to store, somewhere, a whole army of remote controls. Only because the different companies refuse to talk with any of the others. We need all of them to watch the news, so we need to operate all their remote controles, in ways that defy logic. Sometimes you hold a button for a fraction of a second too long. Often this is interpreted as an other demand. But maybe the signal did not reach far enough? That’s an other possibility. When is this misery going to end? It will probably become even worse. I am about to buy a new TV, but only from a company that figured out how to make an end to the remote control war. I want only one remote control in my house, where each button functions as indicated. Wow, is that a eutopic question to ask …

Remote controls 2.

Remote controls requite battery power. The batteries go in the battery compartment, and this is then sealed by a lid. All my remotes, the TV, radio, garage door opener, even the wireless mouse, today require batteries. Let’s not complain about them running empty too quickly. There’s something more irritating than that. It so happens that all these remotes in my house are disfigured by cellotape. Because they all suffer from the same problem, not noticed by their manufacturers. If you drop any one of them, from a very moderate height, the lid springs open and the batteries fall out. Usually putting them back in requires time, physical understanding, patience, more light than you have at that moment, and a good temper, all because the indications where the positive end goes and where the negative end, are unreadable. Believe me, if you have grand children, but also if you don’t, these things will fall on the floor every now and then. Designers forgot to check how easily the batteries then all roll in different directions. After this happened a few times, the lids will not stay in place at all. After a while, they disappear and cellotape takes their place. I find it curious that this happens with all controls of my houshold apparatus, and all brands. Designing them in such a way that the batteries can’t accidently fall out seems to be an unsoluble problem for manufacturers.


To indicate that some apparatus is working, LED lights have been invented, colourful blinking things that keep you awake all night. Your telephone, television set, alarm clock, radio and what not are fighting to receive maximum attention. What for? Why does my wireless connection device show six blinking and jittering lights? Am I supposed to enjoy to notice that it is trying to make contact with my laptop, even if that's off because I want to sleep? O yes, my smoke detector also has a light going on and off, but that's functional, it actually needs a small beam of light to detect smoke in there, but it could hide its light for me when I try to sleep. I strongly suspect that these light have one function only, which is to feed the egos of their designers. I want my gadgets to have a little switch: if I want to know whether it works I hit the switch, and it will momentarily show a light confirming that everything is functioning.