Remote failure incites musing on how far humans can go

Thom marvels at the tech progress even in his own lifetime

For Your Consideration

For the second week in a row, I have experienced a mechanical failure.

This time it was my TV remote. I was watching Netflix (Midsomer Murders, great British crime drama) while washing dishes and got the stupid thing wet, which fried it.

The incident put me in mind of just how much things have changed even in my own lifetime.

I’m old enough to remember when televisions didn’t come with remotes and when we got our first one (sometime in the 1970s). It was actually physically wired to a box that sat on top of the TV. It could change channels and control volume and that was about it.

And it wasn’t that long ago, that TVs that came with remotes also had all the controls on the set, in case you fried your remote while watching Netflix and washing dishes, presumably.

My current television is completely remote-dependent, so without that little controller, I was hooped.

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Except I wasn’t, of course. There’s an app for everything these days. I don’t even mind the periodic advertisements since I was able to download the thing for free to my phone.

It’s incredible to think how far we’ve come. Even a few years ago, I would have had to wait until the next day, go to a retail store and try to find some compatible device or order a new one from the manufacturer. Of course, in the meantime, I still would have also been able to operate it on the set itself.

Now, the network I was watching, the download to my phone and the operation of my new remote is all possible over the electromagnetic waves of my WiFi — which, by the way, is easy to forget wasn’t even available at all until 1997, much less pretty much everywhere you go in 2020.

I can only imagine what my great-grandmother might think about all of this.

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When I was 19 years old (1982), I got to spend an afternoon with her. She was 92 or 93 at the time, which means she would have been born in the 1880s.

She told me when she was a teenager she read a magazine article that predicted some day people would be able to watch events in other parts of the world on small screens, among other things, such as travelling in flying machines, going to the moon and medical advances that would prevent and cure deadly diseases.

She said, she thought it was so preposterous, she threw that magazine in the trash can in disgust.

Of course, she would see all of those things, and more, come to pass.

As a species, we have an remarkable capacity to imagine the unimaginable and an almost incredible ingenuity to eventually make it happen.

Still, I think most of us tend to believe that in whatever time we are living, we are closing in on the limits of that imagination and ingenuity.

I have a feeling, though, we are a long, long way from reaching a plateau on that curve.

If I live as long as my great grandmother, I will be 92 in 2055.

I marvel at what an afternoon with my great grandson or granddaughter might look like 35 years from now.

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