back to article Inside the world's greatest TV remote

The world's most desirable TV remote was a year and a half in the making. Mitch Altman's TV-B-Gone is what you might call a single function remote. You point it at almost any television, and the TV turns off. It's a must for anyone who prefers the days when people actually spoke to each other when out for dinner. Though the …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. vincent himpe


    Now if someone could port this so it would run on a pda and use the IRDA port..

  2. Jason Togneri

    @ vincent himpe

    Actually, although it's not quite the same, for many years you've been able to get remote controle apps which use the IrDA port of the old Psion palmtops and later on, Symbian devices like Nokia's S60. One such app comes with quite a large database of TVs, digi boxes, VCRs, DVDs, etc, and can be quite handy for controlling them or just turning them off. Of course, it's not as simple point-and-clicky as this one, but just to let you know it's already possible. IIRC the Symbian version of the product was Psiloc's irRemote.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Oh the possibilities

    All those TV walls on Oxford Street, walking into all those electrical stores and then through the window of your noisy neighbour.....

    You could probably save the planet!

  4. Tim

    What EXACTLY is the point of this?

    I understand some people do not like TV, but i am guessing that this device will only ever see use by pranksters. It may just make publicly available TVs use a sheilded sensor to prevent operation from outside a set area, with anyone within that area found with the device being banned for life from said premises.

    Seems to be an invention waiting for a market.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Hasn't this been done, the IPAQ has had this for years, Nevo.

    But tell you what I have got, it is revolutionary, what I have done is create a shape, where the edge is the same distance from the centre at any point.

    It may have been easier had something like this existed, but here the blank sheet of paper was very useful.

    I took a piece of string and a pen, fixed one end of the string to a position, then keeping the string tight, I moved the pen attached to the other end of the string, in what I like to term an 'O(tm pending)' motion over the paper.

    The O should be in all good retail stores soon, and I hope others will see how versatile the application of the O could be, and it finds its way into all manner of wondrous things.

  6. Andy Worth

    70 seconds??

    So I have to stand there like a tool, waving this thing at a TV for anything up to 70 seconds before it does anything - IF it happens to have the right off code? I don't see how this is really much in the way of innovation, despite the fact the bloke looks like some sort of crazy Doc Brown.

    I've got a device that took me 18 seconds to design and build. It's a brick on a big bit of string and works with almost 100% of TV sets.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really fun

    I have one of these things, makes for great fun playing with currys/zavvi/cinema minions on a slow sunday.


  8. Anonymous Coward

    Woo-hoo, genius

    18 months of his life to make a gadget to turn off a telly?

    What a complete and utter waste of time. It's not even as if TVs are running loose in the general environment getting on your nerves like (say) mobile phones on trains.

    Generally, if it's your telly, you can turn it off with the remote control that came with it. If it's not your telly then fucking leave it alone and stop being such a juvevenile.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or try this...

    If you're going to hack an existing gadget, how about this as a starting point:

    (unfortunately appears to be no longer available)

  10. Steve Swann

    What's the point?

    I'm missing something here; surely this is the worlds most pointless tech? After all, most people own only 1 TV (or occasionally 2 or 3), so you hardly need a remote that'll turn off more than that model? And am I right in thinking that's ALL it does; turn TVs off? No channel select etc.?

    I just fail to see the point....

    ...unless it's for causing havoc in a major high st. electrical goods store?

  11. Edwin


    There used to be an application for the HP48S/G series of calculators that did that.

    It worked, but drained batteries at a pretty alarming rate.

    Apologies for the pointless trivia.

  12. Shaun

    Seems pointless

    Seems pretty pointless - I can turn most TV's off in less than 70 seconds - I have a device called a "finger"............

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    ...then it wouldn't work very well; IRDA hardware has a very short range.

  14. Rob Crawford

    Purpose ?

    the though of actually having a conversation in a pub, without being interrupted by some deaf half wit that turns the TV to a football match or MTV and then turn the volume up full quite appeals to me.

    Especially when the staff ignore the ferral football fan and say things like well hes a customer too (meaning hes a thug and can do anything he wants)

  15. Eddie Edwards

    @ Stupid comments

    What's the point? It's for use in bars and restaurants. You don't use it to turn your own TV off. If anyone bothered to read the blurb for the product online this would be clear.

    As for an invention waiting for a market, Mitch has sold thousands of these, but it's mostly an open-source project. Anyone can buy a microcontroller and bang one together. It's a fantastic introduction to microcontrollers. Personally I favour the Arduino, since you can build many things onto one base, but the miniPOV projects are cool too.

    When did the suits take over the comments page? This is cool for its own sake. Practicality is non-important, even though Mitch now seems to make a pretty good living from his tinkering.

    Point of order, El Reg: "different diodes turn on and off in nanoseconds" is slightly nonsense. They turn on and off in milliseconds. Moving the article through the air by hand you need this, otherwise the entire pattern is going to be repeated a million times in each swish. Even if you could move the device at the several km/s required to give visible pixels, your eyes are not sensitive enough to see nanosecond flicker.

  16. A J Stiles

    Been there

    Been there, done that. A few years ago now, I acquired a (brand new, and very expensive -- or at least it would have been if I had paid for it) universal remote and used it to have much phun turning off TVs in Dixons.

    Even more mayhem could be created by activating the child lock on the analogue satellite receivers that were around in those days.

    Little things please little minds ..... while bigger fools look on .....

  17. MarkJ

    Fun with TVs

    I seem to remember many years ago Casio had watches with similar tech. The primary market was obviously bored teenagers who wanted to turn off TVs in the window of electrical shops.

  18. Wize

    @ What EXACTLY is the point of this?

    I can think of plenty of reasons to use something like this.

    I was in a pub chatting away to my good lady when the football came on, so the TV beside me went to full volume. A discrete remote would have been handy to let talk without shouting would have been good (and without being seen to yank the power cable by the sweaty scarf wearing masses)

    Standing in HMV I was assaulted by one TV showing the Dark Knight at full volume (and not even seen it yet), a TV demoing some explosion filled game on top of the stores usual mix of background music fighting to be heard.

    I know there are programs for S60 to control TVs but would like the discrete couple of clicks to do any tv without checking model from my phone.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Already been available for years

    Doesn't anyone read 2600?

    They were even giving them away during a fundraiser as I recall.

    This guy is a couple of years too late.

  20. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge


    ""It took me a year and half of my life to get the first prototype" ... surely the first prototype is the one which can turn any single TV off, after that it's just a case of adding more to the database to tell it what to send for different TV's.

    There's something seriously amiss when El Reg front-pages this as some sort of great technological or engineering achievement.

    Now what about that POV display ? How long would it have taken him to do something like that ?

  21. Anonymous Coward

    discrete vs discreet

    I'd look up the difference as you're not appearing to be that "wize" at the moment.

  22. Graham Marsden

    70 seconds?

    And how long does it take you to get off your fat arse and *walk* over to the TV...?

  23. Tim

    @wize....i understand that, but read my post

    If you are in a pub i would love to see you turn the telly off when the footy is in full swing. The remote may stop the telly, but it sure as hell wont pull glass out of your face or broken teeth off the floor, and it wont stop the landlord kicking you out for annoying his punters.

    Likewise HMV, who would be less than impressed with your antics.

    So if you hate telly that much, dont sit next to one in the pub (like, Duh!), and dont worry about them showing films on the tellies in HMV, unless you are there for a couple of hours!

    As i say, the market is small to say the least and if you have 20 quid to spend on a gadget that is only as useful as the couple of minutes of peace it gets you before you get your head kicked in, then i guess it shows that your education was completely wasted.

    On the other hand, it would be a good laugh to try it down the old Trafford Arms during any MANYEW match, i can hear it now.....

    "gor blimey, would you Adam and Eve it? the Auntie Nelly had gone Pete Tong. That's put me right off me jewwied eews."

  24. joe K

    @ Andy Worth

    It says 'up to' . It goes through the most common codes first, and their website does say most tv's would turn off in seconds, which makes sense. Its a TV, not a death-ray. Who can't wait 5 seconds?

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Bars & restaurants? HMV?

    Sorry, but I don't get it. What gives you the right to stroll into a pub and switch the football off? Apart from the fact that the landlord has likely paid Sky many thousands of pounds a year for the right to show it, you stand a fair chance of being stabbed for your trouble.

    It's very possible that you *personally* don't like it, but that's your hint that the guvnor is targetting a different audience and hence your cue to fuck off somewhere else where both you and the landlord will be happier.

    Same with HMV - if you don't like the noisy bangy shouty shiny things, just don't shop there. It's called "choice", we've had it for some time now.

    If I followed your arguments to their logical conclusion, it would be OK for me to make a little black box that switches off El Reg because I don't like your noisy comments.

  26. james4765
    Thumb Up

    You haven't spent much time in doctors' waiting rooms then

    I would have killed for this waiting for drug tests in the middle of the day. Stuck watching daytime soaps. For an hour and a half.

    I bought one for my mother when it first came out - she had great fun with it :)

    After all, here in the Southern US, it's normally Fox News. And I can't stand blithering idiots.

  27. Ozwadi Ogolugi


    Why does the half bald geezer have red hair on the one of two parts he has.. Or maybe my monitor is playing up...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mobile phones

    Will he develop one for mobile 'phones - very useful on the train.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    There is such a program for a HP 48G...

    ... calculator. For those unfamiliar with it, is a Hewlett Packard scientific calculator, with pretty advanced stuff inside it way before any cell phone would incorporate it. Add to it full-blown infrared capable transmission, with both input and output, a reasonably powerful programming language, there you go.

    The original programmer scanned over 50 manufacturers codes, but not just the OFF switch, he copied ALL the switches. DAMN, not just that, he figured out how most of them work, so you can build your own transmission system based on it. Actually, he included in the package means for YOU to copy any remote you lay your geeky hands on. Just point it towards the IR port of the HP48 in learning mode, and voilá. If you get 3 repeated square-wave patterns, you did it. Easy as pie. Just a minor snag about 32KHz sampling frequency won´t stop you.

    As far as I remember, it was built by Björn Gähm. or Björn Rhoads. I googled the first, bingo!

    There is your chance to wreak havoc on the closest DVD-and-telly shop, by unlocking all the pr0n channels, or tuning all the sets to a live football match at full-blown volume.

    Yes, all the remotes I 'borrowed' are in the coat's pockets... shush... I'll return them after copying...

  30. David Gosnell

    Unwanted side-effects

    What's the chance that a sequence that isn't the "off" code for a particular model of telly, is in fact the code for something else? There's only a finite number of combinations. Would you be hated more for turning the telly off, or having an unfortunate mishap and switching to QVC unexpectedly?

  31. Gordon Crawford

    Remember MAX HEADROOM

    if you do , you remember that it is illegal to turn off the tele !!!

  32. Burch


    Try that in Newcastle pub when the football's on.

    No really, try it.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    When I enter public spaces like airports, stations, shopping centres etc, TVs are everywhere, mostly displaying some advertising crap of one sort or another. It's getting like Minority Report...

    If so many of the above commentators don't even notice this, and are unable to think about its implications, then it's up to the few remaining critical thinkers out there to purchase or build such a device and start using it.

    I can walk out of a pub if I don't want to watch the match (in deference to the rest of the customers) and but intrusive TV displays in public spaces are fair game.

  34. Angus


    Hmm and is your idea of intrusive TV displays the same as mine.. or the fellow with a hearing aid? I suspect mostly no.

  35. This post has been deleted by its author

  36. Anonymous Coward


    "When I enter public spaces like airports, stations, shopping centres etc, TVs are everywhere, mostly displaying some advertising crap of one sort or another"

    ...and your expected departure time, boarding gate, shit like that. What an intrusion eh?

    Seriously - when you go lurking around with one of these devices, sneakily switching off TVs, you have to ask yourself are you:

    a) A cunning suburban commando, stealthily striking a blow for legions of the oppressed masses who are subjected to an onslaught of unwanted audio-visual torture, or

    b) A bit of a prick.

  37. Andus McCoatover

    Didn't Nokia (briefly) have this?

    <<Developed by an MIT Media Laber who calls herself Lady Ada, miniPOV displays text messages in mid-air when you wave it to and fro, relying on the human eye's persistence of vision. The device contains a single row of eight LEDs, but when moved, different diodes turn on and off in nanoseconds, creating that mid-air message. Or so it seems.>>

    I'm sure they made a phone in the last century that, when waved, wrote a 'message'. Pity it died.

    Imagine at a footy match, thousands of the things displaying "What a load of Wan*kers". Priceless

    Incidentally, I wasn't aware that microcontrollers were capable (yet) of switching led's in nanoseconds. But then I'm practically geriaric, so what do I know?

  38. Dale Morgan


    He spent 18 months making a universal remote that only has 1 function? is the guy a complete idiot?

  39. James Prior

    Didn't work with the 105" Panasonic ..

    Probably because Panasonic have a "feature" where you have to press and hold the standby button. Cycling through loads of them within 70 seconds isn't going to be long enough to switch it off.

  40. ratfox Silver badge

    HP 48

    By default, it only transmitted over a few inches. So you first had to augment the range of the IR port (easy, like bypassing a resistor or something). And when people did this, HP 48 got banned during school tests, because you could transmit the answers to your pal three meters away...

    By the way, my trusty HP 48 GX is on the table as I write this.

    What a machine! 4Mhz cpu and 128 Kb RAM, AND a 32 Kb extension card!!

  41. Ed
    Thumb Up

    I think its important to note....

    Geeks like this gent are why we all work with computers today, the spirit of taking something sitting on the bench and making it do more is why we can now share information in a heart beat, play games with people from all corners of the world and stream porn from accross the globe...

    The sprit of the inventive geek must never die for if it does we might as well go back to hunting with sticks and cave paintings for porn (a sadly low resolution alternative)

    so in summary to all you nay sayer's

    Was it a waste of time.... Yeah i suppose

    Would i buy one..... Not likely

    Was it worth it...... Hell Yeah WAY TO FUCKING GO!!!!

    Now go bitch somewhere else

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019