Shut off almost any television with “TV-B-Gone.”

The folks over at Wired have an item up on the inventor of TV-B-Gone. It’s a small universal remote designed to do one thing: shut off any television set. The inventor, Mitch Altman, came up with the device so that he could shut off TVs in public places such as restaurants or bars where they tend to intrude on the act of socializing.

The device, which looks like an automobile remote, has just one button. When activated, it spends over a minute flashing out 209 different codes to turn off televisions, the most popular brands first.

For Altman, founder of Silicon Valley data-storage maker 3ware, the TV-B-Gone is all about freeing people from the attention-sapping hold of omnipresent television programming. The device is also providing hours of entertainment for its inventor.

At a Laundromat and cafe down the street, a lone man sorted clothes in the glow of larger-than-life bikini babes on a 60-inch Sony HDTV. A punch of the button and the screen instantly went dark. He went on folding his T-shirts, seemingly unaware of the change.

“It’s always like that,” Altman said. “It’s so much part of the environment in the U.S. that people don’t even notice when it disappears.”

It is different in Hong Kong, Altman said. There, when he clicked off store TVs, everyone looked around to see who did it.

At Best Buy, neither customers nor staff responded as one set after another turned off—Sony TVs first, then a JVC and an Apex, all from a single click. The interview was easier without competition from Pirates of the Caribbean.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I can relate to the argument Altman puts forth in favor of his device. TVs have become almost omnipresent when out in public and I know first hand that they can interfere with socializing. I’m not a big TV watcher myself and when I do watch TV the last thing I’ll tune to is a sports broadcast as I have absolutely no interest in them. Yet there have been times when I’ve been having lunch with coworkers at the local Red Robin, where TVs are spread throughout the dining room, that I’ve caught myself watching whatever was on the sports channel the TV was tuned to rather than actually conversing with my friends like I had intended. Admittedly this tends to occur because they were busy discussing something I had nothing to contribute on, but it was a big distraction just the same.

On the other hand I think it’s asking for trouble to have people wandering around with these remotes engaging in battles over the TV’s power switch (the remotes can also turn the TVs back on) as that’s easily grounds for a fistfight in some situations. In the case of the displays at Best Buy there’s a very valid reason to have all the TVs turned on. There are also plenty of people who will frequent a particular bar or restaurant specifically because it does provide TVs to watch the game on. There’s something to be said for people having to ask the folks who run the establishment to turn off a TV if it’s bothering them as that leaves the decision up to the proprietor as opposed to a handful of people sitting around with TV-B-Gones trying to force their their preference on everyone else in the area.

Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the troublemaker in me finds this sort of device very appealing. Altman is selling TV-B-Gone to the general public. It’ll set you back about $15,

9 thoughts on “Shut off almost any television with “TV-B-Gone.”

  1. I’d much rather have people out in a public place watching the game/news/Survivor, then home alone doing so, or with their small coven of cookie-cutter-friends.

    I often find myself for lunch at a restaurant outside of my usual stomping grounds, more often than not alone, especialy if i’m on the road for work.  If i’ve never been there before i fist check to see if they have a bar area, if not i usually check out another place entirely.  Bars are a great place to meet people and, better, to hear lotsa interesting conversation from people i’d otherwise never know or run into.  The TV is, contrary to what most might think, a great social lubricator.

    Many a time a number of us have been sitting at the bar watching this or that show when someone makes a comment or joke.  I’ve observed that the tv in this environment is a community-maker, rather than a community-inhibitor.

    But, i gotta admit, i’m intrigued with the possible hijinks such a device might cause in different circumstances.  With practice such a device could be used quite subtly.

    rob@egoz.org

  2. Just as a friendly piece of advice. Such actions can constitute trespass to chattels. Any intermeddling with another’s personal property no matter how small constitutes trespass. Think of this as going up to a museum and touching all their paintings and statues. Usually a warning would suffice but the owners could always start an action. And further more the interference need not be physical, an example would be the eBay case against the bots crawling for information.

    Another point to note is that in Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore (at least these are the places that I recall) TV is more common throughout. For example their public bus systems have TV in them to entertain the folks. And of course there is advertisement too!

  3. This thing pisses me off. If you don’t like the TV on, ask the proprietor if you can have it turned off. If you get an answer you don’t like, you’re free to leave.

    The first asshole that gets the shit beat out of him because he was being a little fuck with one of these is going to sue and win a pile of cash.

  4. So, what do I do when I’m showing an educational video in my classroom and some adolescent sphincter with a TV-B-Gone start shutting down the monitor to amuse his little friends?  I can cover the IR port, but then i have to climb up on a chair to turn it on or off myself.  Thanks, Mr. Altman, for making a difficult job even harder.

  5. Like I said, I can see where this is going to cause all sorts of problems. Genie’s out of the bottle now, though, so we’ll have to figure out how to deal with it.

  6. Absolutely true, Les.

    I’ve just been seeing far too little “common courtesy” and “good etiquette” lately. This device is just another way to allow someone to be an anonymous asshole.

    Judging by the way they’re flying off the shelves, there seems to be a huge desire to be an asshole nowadays.

    I’m sure my Great-grandparents said exactly the same thing.

    I guess it’s a (pretty insignificant) example of “where do you draw the line”. Is it ok to impose my will on the general public to this extent? When does it become inappropriate? Would it be more bothersome if it forced TVs onto religious stations and upped the volume?

    Yeah, yeah. Mountain out of mole hill.

  7. lmfao.  The site’s under ‘reconstruction’ because it got flooded with potential buyers.  Well, I guess we’re all safe for the time being.  wink

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