True gripes / TV remote controls

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The Independent Online
Televisions used to have doors and opening them was a ceremony crammed with anticipation.

They had tuners - Bakelite knobs which controlled brightness, hold and volume, giving you the impression you were in charge. Despite battles with the aerial socket, they were worth it.

TVs even had model names in addition to those of the manufacturers. Despite all this they still let you down. Horizontal hold that did anything but. Brightness that seemed to breathe and sound systems that could only reproduce hard consonants. But you still felt in control and convinced yourself it was a good picture.

If ever there was an invention which destroyed the thing it was designed to help, the television zapper is it. We all have stories of where the damn thing has turned up; forget the shower room, I found it in the hen hut.

And the hand that rules the wand, rules the television. The box may have killed the art of conversation, but the wand quickly taught us how to row.

Victims of the channel surfer can't rest; even when they seem calm a part of their brain is agitated, waiting for a sudden shift, waiting to be confused by an appearance of Peter Snow in Coronation Street. And to really send blood pressure sky high, sample Teletext which appears programmed always to display the page immediately following the one you want.

Then there are the batteries, those things that get drained away because the control gets stuck down the side of the settee, beaming to the ceiling instead of the TV.

But my real hatred of this contraption stems from its contribution to diminishing levels of concentration. Generations are growing up unable to maintain interest for the duration of a programme.

Spencer Tracy, in Inherit the Wind, talks of there being a price to pay for every scientific advance, a price we may not realise until years later. Is there a better example of what he describes than the zapper, the wand, the remote, the... and can't we have a proper name for the thing?

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