Pass notes No 2,810: the remote control

Are its days numbered, thanks to a forthcoming iPhone app?

Age: 60.

Appearance: two shiny gadgets with an idiot in the middle.

One gadget, surely? Buttons on top, batteries inside. You point it at the telly . . . And nothing happens. So you use the f-word, get up and change the channels by hand? That's the old style of remote.

But I like the old style of remote. I know how it works. How does it work? Infra-red light. Earlier versions used visible light or sound. The very first was connected to the set with a wire.

I know it looks as if I'm yawning, but I'm just exercising my jaws. Now scientists have discovered a way to use both infra-red and bluetooth, which is a trendy kind of radio.

You call that progress? Two things to break down, rather than one? Is it at least cheap? Dream on. You can pick up a traditional remote for a few quid; this new device will cost £79 when it goes on sale at John Lewis in the autumn. But it's still set to become one of the gadgets of the year, according to . . .

John Lewis? Yup. As long as you own an . . .

This isn't yet another iPhone story, is it? Of course not. It's yet another iPhone, iPad and iPod touch story. The battery-powered "Gear4 Unity" turns your iDoodah into a "universal" remote that opens garage doors, controls hi-fis . . . in theory, it can control anything run by infra-red.

Everyone's just going to use it for TV, aren't they? Naturally. But they'll have the potential to do so much more. And because it's an iPhone, every time they lose their new-fangled remote, they'll simply be able to phone it. Muffled ringtone? Side of the sofa. Bubbling sound? Dropped in the vase. Genius.

So how does this work? iThingies can't talk to most devices because they don't have infra-red, only bluetooth. Simply install Unity near your telly/garage door and this little cylinder bridges the gap.

What could go wrong? You now have two loads of batteries to worry about.

Do say: "Lose this remote and we can ring it."

Don't say: "Lose this remote and we're stuffed."

The GuardianTramp

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