Thursday, September 01, 2022

Just another unexpected problem of contemporary life...

The device at left will be familiar to many of you: A Roku remote.

You may not have something exactly like this -- I wouldn't have had this one if the kids hadn't gotten it for me -- but you may have something similar.

A small device -- just right for getting wedged in the recliner, or buried in the couch cushions. Small and light enough to be carried by even an unsteady toddler -- and deposited in any number of places, including the garbage can in the kitchen. I'm pretty sure that the kitchen garbage was the final destination of at least one of our TV remotes. We had a Vizio remote, a little shorter than the Roku remote, a trifle wider, but still light and very portable.

Then one day, a couple of years back, we were watching Granddaughter No. 6 -- but not closely enough -- and the Vizio remote was never seen again.

I thought I was vigilant before about keeping remotes remote from curious grandchildren. But that incident redoubled my resolve.

As evidenced by the Roku remote herein shown.

It is the same remote that we received with our Roku device, some Christmases back. Not a replacement. The exact same one.

I stress this because it is apparently a signal achievement: These remotes are made to be lost.

I have occasion to babysit at Younger Daughter's house on a recurring basis. When I arrive and something horrible is playing on the TV (I didn't like My Little Ponies when my kids were young, and I like the latest incarnation no better) I always inquire as to the whereabouts of the remote. It had been months since they've been able to find one (until tonight, that is -- Younger Daughter was a little vague on where it had been found).

Regardless, the one she handed me this evening was by no means the original.

But things getting lost in the couch cushions is nothing new. Even in my youth couches were notorious for swallowing wallets, keys, or eyeglasses. So losing a remote would not be a particularly unique problem of contemporary life.

And, inasmuch as I can show you this picture, my problem is not losing the remote anyway.

We recently cut the cord (actually we had subscribed to DirecTV for the last few years, which we used after ousting Comcast Cable) and so have been using the Roku remote quite frequently now.

Quite frequently.

And, in the natural course of things, given the increased usage, the remote stopped working entirely just this afternoon. This happens. I assumed that the batteries must have died. Nothing new about batteries failing.

Replacing the batteries in this device was... difficult. There was no little fabric strap to facilitate pulling out the old ones. But I perservered. I achieved. I got the replacement batteries from a brand new package, too.

And, yes -- before you ask -- just as Younger Daughter asked -- I did make sure I put the + and - ends of each battery where they were supposed to go. I had to put my glasses on and turn on the lamp -- on a bright sunny day -- to ensure that I did this. But I did do it.

And then... nothing.

The remote with the new batteries, properly installed, was just as dead as it was with the old batteries.

We're flush with batteries at this time. So there was still another, unopened package of AAA batteries I could open and make another attempt. Which I did.

And then... still nothing.

Younger Daughter knew about my troubles because she happened to call whilst I was engaged in this ultimately futile effort (she wanted to engage Long Suffering Spouse and me for babysitting duty tonight). So I asked: Have you ever had a remote fail? Has one ever stopped transmitting?

I should have known these were foolish questions before I asked them. We weren't speaking by video this afternoon, but I could, at least in my mind's eye, see her give me a pitying look. No, she said. Of course we haven't, she might have added, but did not; we've never been able to hold onto one long enough.

Replacement remotes are plentiful on Amazon, Younger Daughter assured me, and, in the meantime, or in the alternative, Roku has an app that turns any mobile phone into a remote. Immediate problem solved.

But it's got me wondering: Do remotes 'burn out'? Do they lose the ability to transmit over time? Why? What is the life expectancy?

I promise that is a problem we never had to address 'back in the day.' Certainly, I never have. The TV or VCR or DVD player would burn out before any remote ever failed. This was something new. Just what I needed: A new annoyance....

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