THIS AND THAT: We live in a remote-controlled world | Characteristics

If you’re of a certain age, you can remember walking across the living room floor to the TV and (gasp!) turning the channel selector to find the station you wanted.

Yes, we got a lot of our exercise that way. We got up from the comfort of the couch and walked across the room several times over the course of an evening watching TV on a black and white TV that could only get two channels.

When Dad said the sound was too loud, we walked across the floor to manually lower the volume knob. Sometimes the image would start to flip, and we once again had to go to set to adjust the horizontal control.

Back then, watching television was exercise upon exercise. No cellphone app would tell us how many steps we had logged, but there were plenty. Without cable TV and HD pictures, reception was often spotty, especially when a summer thunderstorm hit the area.

Then things changed. Our first cable subscription provided about ten channels. There was an assortment of programming options, and we felt more would never be needed. Around this time, my parents bought their first color television. Could anything be better?

Finally came the invention of the device that changed the home screen display forever: the remote control. This is what took our tribal laziness to the extreme. We’ve gotten so lazy that we now just call it the “remote control” so we can register two syllables with every utterance.

The remote allowed us to sit on a sofa or chair and switch between channels to see what was going on without the distraction of getting up from our seats, walking across the room and moving a button with the twist of the wrist. Instead of using the muscles in our legs and wrists, watching TV is done with just the movement of the thumb. To appease our guilty consciences, this effort has been given an athletic name called “canal surfing.”

A bigger problem was unveiled when other devices came along with the remote. Before streaming services were all the rage, we had a VHS recorder/player that had a separate remote from the TV. Technology then brought the DVD player with its remote control. Because we still had plenty of VHS tapes as well as DVDs, we kept both machines, giving us three remotes for our viewing pleasure.

A few years later, we subscribed to a TV service that had a collection of gear and what was supposed to be a universal remote that would control everything in our home theater area. The only problem is that I could never figure out how to connect all the other devices, so we had four remotes. My wife (don’t tell her I said that) didn’t like that the four remotes were on a table next to my favorite seat, so she got a basket to put them in, placing the container on the shelf bottom of a table next to me. I had become so lazy to use remotes that it became an inconvenience to reach that shelf and get the necessary remote.

When I received a turntable/CD/cassette/radio combination for our entertainment room, it came with another remote control. The upstairs TV has its own remote. Our cars have remote controls to open and close the garage door. The home security system allows us to lock and unlock the doors remotely as well as activate or deactivate the alarm.

I feel like I’m getting lazier and lazier the more I count the number of these things in our house. We have a remote control for our Christmas tree, a remote control that operates appliances on three different electrical outlets, and remote controls for the lights hanging on our patio

Although I use these devices at every opportunity, I am not immune to the understanding that it increases the incidence of couch potato in the world. I can’t take the time to walk across the room to turn a dial and watch something for an hour while I’m sitting. No, I have to sit down to change channels to watch the show I will be seated for during that 60 minute period.

This is a problem that many of us face. So what is the answer to this situation? I have not got the faintest idea.

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