Universal Remotes

Have you lost control of your entertainment systems?  Does it feel like you have to gear up for battle every time you watch TV? Have remote controls multiplied like rabbits in your home?  If you are like me, the answer is yes to all three. 

For every component we add to our entertainment systems, we add a remote control.  Even the most basic home entertainment system with a TV, a cable box and a DVD player creates a control process that would confuse Stephen Hawking. 

For watching TV, first we have to turn on the TV and the cable box.  Then we have to change the TV to the right input.  To adjust the volume, we have to use the TV remote and then to change channels we have to use the cable remote.  By my count, that involves picking up and setting down four remotes.

To answer this problem, the industry came out with the universal remote.  This allowed us to control all our components with one remote.  The problem was that we still had to press a hundred buttons to do anything.

With the advent of the programmable remote (PR) controlling our home entertainment systems became easy.  Also known as a macro remote, PR’s allow us program a series of commands that are sent to all the components and group them into an activity such as “Watch TV”.  So when you want to watch the TV, all you have to do is pick up the remote and press one button and the remote turns the TV and cable box on, gets the TV in to the right input and then makes the proper buttons on the remote control volume for the TV and channel for the cable box.  If you are watching TV and want to watch a DVD, the remote is smart enough to remember what components are already on and how it needs to change everything to watch a DVD.  When you are done, one button press turns everything off.

Until around 2006, PR’s were an option for only the very wealthy.  They cost around $600 for the remote and then you had to pay an electrical engineering another $600 to program it.  In 2006 Logitech entered the arena with their line of Harmony remotes which started at $125 and gave all the convenience of a PR to the average user.   The programming of the remote should still be left to a home theater installer but cost for programming is around $100 instead of the small fortune installers used to command.