- Universal remote
A universal remote is a
remote controlthat can be programmed to operate various brands of one or more types of consumer electronicsdevices. Low-end universal remotes can only control a set number of devices determined by their manufacturer, while mid- and high-end universal remotes allow the user to program in new control codes to the remote. Many remotes sold with various electronic devices include universal remote capabilities for other types of devices, which allow the remote to control other devices beyond the device it came with. For example, a VCR remote may be programmed to operate various brands of televisions. Because programming a universal remote can be a fairly complex procedure, it is most often performed by technically-minded individuals, although non-technical users can often operate the remote after it has been programmed.
The first universal remote was introduced by Philips through Magnavox on May 30, 1985 (U.S. Pat. #4774511). In 1985, William "Russ" McIntyre, a software engineer with North American Philips Consumer Electronics (Magnavox, Sylvania, and Philco) developed the first universal remote control along with 2 colleagues. Soon following development and patent applications, Magnavox initiated the "Smart, Very Smart" campaign, coining the 'smart' axiom. McIntyre claims the challenge in designing was fitting the well-crafted, tight code into an extremely limited memory space. There are at least 2 subsequent patents which follow: US Pat. 4703359, on November 20, 1988 and US Pat. 4951131, in 1989.
In 1987, the first programmable universal remote control was released. It was created by
CL 9, a startup founded by Steve Wozniak, the inventorof the Apple II.
Layout and features
Most universal remotes share a number of basic design elements:
*A power button, as well as a switch or series of buttons to select which device the remote is controlling at the moment. A typical selection includes TV, VCR,
DVD, and CBL/SAT, along with other devices that sometimes include DVRs, audio equipment or home automation devices.
*Channel and volume up/down selectors (sometimes marked with + and - signs).
numeric keypadfor entering channel numbers and some other purposes such as time and date entry.
*A set button (sometimes recessed to avoid accidental pressing) to allow selection of a particular set of codes (usually entered on the keypad). Most remotes also allow the user to cycle through the list of available codes to find one that matches the device to be controlled.
*Most but not all universal remotes include one or more
D-pads for navigating menus on DVD players and cable/satellite boxes.
Certain highly reduced designs such as the [http://www.tvbgone.com TV-B-Gone] or keychain-sized remotes include only a few buttons, such as power and channel/volume selectors.
Higher-end remotes have numerous other features:
* Macro programming, allowing the user to program command sequences to be sent with one button press
* LCD to display status information.
* Programmable soft keys, allowing user-defined functions and macros
* Aliases or "punchthroughs", which allow multiple devices to be accessed without changing device modes (for example, using the TV's volume control while the remote is still in DVD-player mode.)
* IR code learning, allowing the remote to be programmed to control new devices not already in its code list
* PC configuration, allowing the remote to be connected to a computer for easy setup
* Some universal remotes have the ability to also make phone calls replacing your home phone in that room.
Repeaters are available that can extend the range of a remote control; some remotes are designed to communicate with a dedicated repeater over RF, removing the line-of-sight requirement of IR repeaters, while others accept infrared signals from any remote and transmit them to the device being controlled. (The latter are sometimes built as hobby projects and are widely available in kit form.)
*Some devices, such as some computers and game consoles, use
Bluetoothor a similar RF protocol rather than infrared as the main transmission form; universal remotes compatible with those designs are available.
Upgradable and Learning Remotes
Some universal remotes allow the code lists programmed into the remote to be updated to support new brands or models of devices not currently supported by the remote. Some higher end universal learning remotes require a computer to be connected. The connection is typically done via USB from the computer to mini-USB on the remote or the remotes base station.
IR learning remotes can learn the code for any button on many other IR remote controls. This functionality allows the remote to learn functions not supported by default for a particular device, making it sometimes possible to control devices that the remote was not originally designed to control. A drawback of this approach is that the learning remote needs a functioning teaching remote. Also, some entertainment equipment manufacturers use pulse frequencies that are higher than what the learning remote can detect and store in its memory.
These remotes feature an LCD screen that can be either monochrome or full color. The 'buttons' are actually images on the screen which, when touched, will send IR signalsout to control devices. Some models have multiple screens that are accessed through buttons on the touch-screen and other models have a combination of the touch-screen and "hard" (traditional) buttons. Some models of the touch-screen remotes are programmed using a graphical interface program on a PC, which allows the user to customize the screens, backgrounds, buttons and even the 'actions' the buttons perform. The 'project' that is created is then downloaded into the remote through a USB cable or, in the most recent models, wirelessly by
The very newest touch-screen remotes include RF signals to allow signals to reach locations much farther than the usual range (approximately 20' ) of IR.
* [http://universalremote.com Universal Remote Control, Inc.]
* [http://rticorp.com Remote Technologies, Inc.]
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