Why do we *need* remote controls?

I’m not sure which forum this belongs in. Mods, feel free to move at will.

Why is it that every home entertainment (TV, VCR, DVD-R) seems to need the remote control to use the higher functions? Even though puttting 6 extra buttons on the base unit (Menu, enter and 4 arrow keys) would enable you to use the product for pretty much anything you need it for without needing the remote.

I’m slightly biased, as I have 5 different remotes and at any given time it’s likely that at least one of them is missing, but funnily enough I’ve never misplaced my DVD-R.. I can always tell you exactly where that is. I would happily pay 15-20% extra for my next piece of technology if it were advertised with ‘all functions usable from the base unit’.

Although remotes are convenient I think I should be able to tune in a channel, set up a timed recording and other stuff without needing to hunt for a device that seems to deliberately get lost.

What do you think?

(Have you, by any chance, been reading the Anthology at the End of the Universe? There’s an essay similar to this post in there, only it’s about car stereos.)

Mostly because not many people have their entertainment center set up so that setting complicated higher functions for any length of time is comfortable. Most people would rather just do it from the couch.

Plus, putting that many buttons on front panel would just complicate things, and make it look all clunky.

Interesting sidenote - my freshman year of college, someone stole the remote out of our apartment. Twice. Nobody would actually care enough to steal a TV remote, surely it was just lost. I scoured the place up and down at LEAST 6 times, and of course eventually moved out and completely cleaned shop, and they never, ever turned up.

That’s when I realized - it was college. All makes sense. I’m sure your problem doesn’t have the same cause, but I thought I’d share.

Our television has the channels on the bottom, along with a volume knob, on/off button, and picture adjustment knobs. One of my husband’s relatives gave it to us and we don’t have a remote for it. Instead, we taught my toddler his numbers - he loves changing the channels for us. We still have to get up to do the volume, because we don’t want him blasting us with the Wiggles or muting Lost.

For the same reason we have flamethrowers, there’s something over there that needs to be burned/tuned, but I couldn’t be arsed walking :slight_smile:

My girlfriend’s DVD player has a play/pause and stop button for controlling playback on DVDs but nothing else on the player itself. Not being able to find the remote I had to watch John Woo’s “The Killer” with both subtitles and ridiculous dubbing, a joy to note the large differences between what the subtitlers and the dubbers both heard :smiley:

Heh. We lost our DVD remote during a move and ended up not being able to turn the subtitles on for Lost In Translation. This meant that I watched a movie about spoiled tourists running around my backyard, while my wife watched a movie about perfectly ordinary Japanese people dealing with a pair of bizarre and incomprehensible foreigners.

Heh. Never quite thought of flamethrowers in that way.

My DVR has absolutely no buttons on it for channel-changing, access to the menu, or anything. It’s controlled entirely by the remote. I once broke the remote and was forced to watch the Sci-Fi Channel until my next pay day when I could afford to buy a universal remote with DVR support from Best Buy. (True story.)

Related discussion.

Back in the 60s, we kids were the “remote”. Then we had the tethered remote in the early 80s. I feel like such a geezer.

Well, my dvd player has been designed so that there are things that cannot be done without a remote. Obviously, that’s design following the assumption that a remote would exist, but if I want to turn on (or off) subtitles, or switch from the regular audiotrack to the “film historian discussing the movie” track, I need the remote. Plus, have you ever tried to find the right button on the front of one of those things after you turn down the lights?

Ditto to the subtitles posts. Since my DVD player’s remote started malfunctioning, I’ve been wishing there was some other way to access subtitle and audio settings. Watching a kung-fu movie with Thai subtitles and Mandarin dubbing when it was filmed in Cantonese is quite the experience, especially when I don’t understand any of these languages…

What I wish more devices had was a button mounted on the console for locating the remote (such as an audible signal). I have seen this feature included on some devices, but it doesn’t seem to be very common. I’d expect it to be a standard function with as many people as there are who regularly lose their remotes. A lot of cordless phones have a “page” button on the base, so why not DVD players and VCRs?

To deal with locating remote buttons while in a dark room, why not have an easily accessible button that backlights the remote, making the buttons and their function labels visible?

Here’s a simple fact that explains a lot of consumer electronics design: Buttons are expensive. Buttons, dials, switches, all those things. Each button you add means additional moving parts to be installed during assembly, more wires that need to be soldered, larger microchip (with more input lines) to handle the input, and more things that can break and require servicing later on. It all adds up. The cheapest design is one that uses the fewest buttons, and make you access features by a combination of those buttons. And of course, you don’t want buttons on remote and base unit if you can get away with just having it on one.

A “page” function requires that the unit receive radio signals at any moment and emit a sound. A cordless phone already has the hardware to do it: antenna, receiver, speaker, and most importantly, a battery that gets charged almost every day (because it takes energy just to listen for radio signals all the time). A TV remote has none of these hardware; its main function is to send signals, not receive it. To add a “page” function you’d need to add basically the entire contents of a pager, and charge the battery frequently.

Ok. Now I’m picturing Kalhoun’s kids on a tether.

We need remote controls because you don’t want to get out of your easy chair every time you want to turn the volume up or down, change the channel, pause a movie, or whatever. On things like Tivos, you use the remote a lot to pick what show you want to watch, fast forward through commercials, replay stuff you want to see again, etc.

In a halfway decent home entertaintment system there are 5-6 remotes. I just got a Logitech Harmony remote to take 4 of my remotes (TV, Tivo, DVD, VCR) down to one, and I’m pretty happy with it. It also controls my Playstation 2 including turning it on and off, I didn’t even know the PS2 was capable of remotely turning on and off.

And another remote story, I had a 13" Emerson TV from the mid/late 80’s in my bedroom. I lost the remote (years later I found it in a bag of clothes I had packed away.) So I got a universal remote, and it actually had more functions for the TV than the original remote did. It accessed functions like a clock that I never knew the TV had, and I guess Emerson didn’t want you to know either.

I have a PS2 and I bought the little remote that Sony sells for playing DVD’s, and that remote doesn’t even offer that function. Do you know if all universal remotes are capapble of that function on the PS2 or is it just on that Logitech remote? I do know that Logitech makes other accesories for the PS2 so that may have something to do with it.

Another chime for form-factor issues. They could put all those buttons on the front of your sleek new set (esp. flat panel TVs), but it would look like crap. Plus, do you really want to have to run up nose-to-the-screen every time you want to pause, rewind, fast-forward, change the channel, adjust volume, etc. My wife’s easily annoyed by loud sounds, for instance. If she had her way, sound intensity would never deviate from a narrow decibel range. It makes watching movies with explosions damn annoying. KABOOM…“Too loud! Turn it down!” What would be even more annoying would be running up to the set every five seconds to tweak a knob or push a button. I don’t think it makes me a couch potato to not want to have to run a 5k every time I watch a movie with dramatic dynamics.

I doubt if many universal remotes support the PS2. Info on remote controls for the PS2 seems sparse. I think only the later-model black and new slimline PS2s support the power on/off (technically it’s sleep mode on/off.) I know the Harmony remotes work, I got the model 628 for $44 from Amazon.

In the last hotel room I got, the TV didn’t have any buttons. Only the remote. Guess whose remote was out of batteries?