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Digital Life: A remote chance

Do I really need 54 buttons?

Pam Carroll

Do I really need 54 buttons?

Yep, I counted. 54 buttons on the remote control of the Home-Theatre-in-a-Box system I was reviewing last week-end. Bear in mind that this was an entry level system.

Call me crazy, but by and large, I want technology to make my life simpler. Not that this remote was particularly hard to understand - Power, Channel and Volume were straightforward. Nor do you have to be an electronics genius to cope with Open/Close, Stop, Play, Pause and channel numbers.

But I'm a 'set and forget' kind of girl. It was loaded with at least 15 other tiny buttons that most human beings would never need to access again once the system has been initially configured.

As much as I'd like to think that I will one day become fluent in French, I'm never going to change the default subtitle language from English. Do I need a Subtitle button?

The Angle button gives you the option to change the angle that you are viewing. Of course you need to be playing a DVD that has been recorded with multiple camera angles - how many of those have you come across?

Granted, there may be people out there who like to like to alter the base and treble setting for each new audio or video disk they play, but I believe they're in the minority. Once the speaker volume balance has been adjusted to one's personal preference, it's set for the long term, as far as I'm concerned.

I don't mean to sound churlish - it is very nice that there is the scope to alter all these settings. I just don't want to have to think about them on a regular basis.

Case in point. I was having fun playing with all the configurations during set up, but once the movie started, I forgot which button did what. A friend stopped by mid-movie to join our little screening, and grabbing the remote in the dark, I managed to hit every button there was - other than Pause. It then took a scramble through the manual to get rid of the menu screens I'd managed to unwittingly activate.

I hate to admit it, but we have to keep the manual around for our 4-year old TV, because somebody is always sitting on the remote, and all manner of odd menus are likely to appear. Getting rid of them is not as easy as simply removing your backside from the device or squashing it again twice with the same butt-cheek.

Universal remotes could be the answer, but I'm sure that most households persevere with 3-4 remotes on their coffee tables because the thought of programming one 'command' controller seems too daunting. If you haven't yet worked out programming the VCR, combining all your devices or sorting out a home cinema system with audio, video and jpg capabilities seems like a big ask.

But we seem to put up with these things for home entertainment. It's not like there are other appliances in the average home that require you to keep the manual handy - I can't recall ever having to refer back to the directions on the microwave or washing machine.

What do you think? Are too many buttons never enough? Or are you a 'just give me the basics' type of person? Let me know your thoughts below!