About Remote Controls

Preprogrammed Remote Controls

Preprogrammed remote controls have a set of buttons with device selection keys that mimic the remote codes of the device you wish to control. They are preprogrammed with IR codes for many common IR controlled devices.

Learning Remote Controls

Many rare or high-end device IR codes are not available with preprogrammed remote controls. The solution to this is "learning" remotes that can be programmed by the owner to mimic whatever IR remote controls they have.

These learning remote controls are very popular and serve the purpose that previously several remote controls were needed for. But there are still drawbacks. Consider a situation where there is a simplistic array of ‘common' buttons for every device on the handset. You have ‘learned' all the codes for all these features and that leaves you with a few multifunctional buttons labelled 1,2 and 3 for example. Each device, of which there are five, has a particular command stored on each of those three buttons, making 15 additional learned commands in total controlling features such as additional menu access, picture in picture, A/V switching etc. Now ask someone else to activate the picture in picture function of the television from that remote control. I'll bet it takes them at least 2 attempts to succeed. Even the person that programmed the remote doesn't always remember which command went on each button.


LCD display Remote Controls

The opportunity to have remote control displays with either information about keys on the remote or even the keys themselves visualised on larger LCD screens has made operating the remote a much more user friendly experience. These remotes have ‘virtual' keys depicted on the touchscreen display. The keys can be named and a range of functions given to them.

Perhaps the most successful LCD touchscreen remote to date has been that from the Philips-Marantz alliance in the form of the Pronto / RC5000i. The unit is particularly small and offers just a modicum of buttons arranged neatly on the outer edge of the screen - almost as an afterthought. What sets this unit apart from many of its competitors is what is underneath the display. The functionality of this little unit is not to be underestimated. In addition to preprogrammed and learning functions the remote offers the user the ability to arrange the keys on the display in whatever way he or she sees fit. The capability to use an icon instead of a virtual button graphic is included - realising the idea of pressing the NBC logo to watch an NBC channel, a truly user friendly system. This style of remote control also made a complicated feature of early remote controls near simplicity itself to use, namely that of the macro.

The Macro Feature

Macro means to ‘store' a sequence of commands as a single command on one key. When a macro key is pressed, the sequence of commands is replayed so, for example, a display device could be switched on as could a HDTV receiver, the correct channels selected on both devices and the volume adjusted to comfortable listening levels. What may have taken perhaps a minute or two (finding the relevant remote controls included) ten years ago can now be accomplished with the press of a single button and in the blink of an eye.

Not only do many newer remotes offer visual indications of the steps involved in the macro, but many include PC connectivity, usually afforded by the USB interface. Proprietary software often supplied with the remote control enables an upload / download link to be established between the remote and the computer. Macros and layouts, including icon graphics, are edited on the PC which provides a fast, easily adjustable means of interacting with the remote's configuration. They are then downloaded back into the remote control ready for use. Usually the only limit to the level of flexibility is the amount of memory and processing power the remote has to offer.