Think of all the waiting rooms where you have had to endure mindless soaps, the bars where you have been silenced into submission by a cocktail of football or MTV – depending on which end you sit. If you have ever wished for a gizmo that would quell the cacophony then your wish has been granted.
A gadget cunningly disguised as a car alarm remote clandestinely switches off television sets by the simple press of a button now exists. Get your hands on one of these and going for a pint could yet again become the social event that it was fifty years ago – before the art of conversation was subsumed by wide-eyed silence punctuated by disjointed roars.
The gadget with the moral dimension has a name with a biblical ring – TV-B-Gone, and like the parting of the Red Sea it will silence the attention sapping scourge in any public area. When activated, the universal remote control with a mission will spend about a minute flashing out 209 different codes to turn off televisions, attacking the most popular brands first. There is an American-Asian model and a European one, using different codes.
TV-B-Gone’s inventor Mitch Altman, who was recently interviewed by Steven Bodzin for Wired, already has a pretty impressive track record. He wrote an Apple video game in 1977, which became a military training module, worked on virtual reality systems in VPL in the 1980’s, and more recently patented hard-drive controllers developed in his Silicon Valley data-storage maker company, 3Ware.
TV-B-Gone has just gone on sale so perhaps unwanted ambient TV may become a thing of the past, a social pariah we will tell our grandchildren about. Question is are the TV manufacturers going to fight back? Or, will it be the start of a whole new battle of wits like that between the computer security industry and the hackers, spammers and virus writers?