Friday, June 15th, 2007
Review: TV-B-Gone Silences Intrusive Television in Public Spaces
Preface: despite appearances, I am not entirely anti-television. Read the comment section for additional discussion.
TV-B-Gone by Cornfield Electronics is a universal TV remote with only one button: OFF. The unit is composed of a small plastic box with a button, infrared eye and key chain. Point the eye at a TV set, press the button and within seconds the TV turns off.
Why review this product on a baby blog? OK, here we go.
My 3-year-old daughter had her annual dental check-up this week. She sailed through like a champ with Mom holding her hand and Dad touching her sandal-covered foot and everyone smiling.
One thing annoyed me about the visit though. In a waiting room filled with people and stocked with plenty of magazines and excellent toddler toys, there was a flat screen TV centrally mounted on a wall showing cartoons and commercials.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pediatricians “discourage television viewing for children younger than 2 years, and encourage more interactive activities that will promote proper brain development, such as talking, playing, singing and reading together.”
At 3, my daughter is blissfully uninterested in TV. She was also the only one in a dozen toddlers her age at a birthday party yesterday who could sign her birthday card. When other kids are watching TV, we’re learning and being active. Why mess with success?
Then I remembered, I won a TV-B-Gone at a Z Recommends contest a while back, but never used it. So I grabbed it from my car’s glove compartment, sat down in the waiting room, pointed the box, and *click* the TV turned off.
Nobody noticed. It was kind of anti-climatic. I wouldn’t have dared cause a ruckus if kids were watching the television, but this was an excellent example of TV intruding unnecessarily on our public life. The TV was background noise. People accepted its presence even when its presence served no purpose.
When our daughter’s name was called, we were ushered into a room that had a row of dental chairs, each one equipped with its own TV screen and headphones. Click. The TV in front of my daughter turned off. Click. The TV next to us in front of an empty chair turned off. A dental assistant introduced Little Miss to her tools, then examined the mouth.
Next, we were moved to a second row of chairs where the dentist would do a quick exam. Click. Click. The televisions turned off.
The dentist didn’t notice. The dental assistant didn’t notice. No one working in the office batted an eye. I felt like I was conducting a psychological experiment. Is TV that entrenched in our lives?
All of these TV sets were within arm’s reach, and I expect the office staff wouldn’t have minded me manually turning off the screens nearest my daughter. But it was far more interesting to see whether people viewed the TVs as important, or as pieces of furniture. Also, on an environmental level, a lot of energy is wasted running TVs in front of empty seats.
Now, about the device itselfâ€¦ it measures about 1.5 inches square and is a half-inch thick. The box functions as a sort of universal remote, cycling through “off” commands for hundreds of brands of television sets. Your TV will probably turn off quickly, but could take as long as 69 seconds as the remote transmits all of the “off” codes. Separate remotes are sold for American and Asian TVs versus European TVs.
The unit has a keychain, but I think the button could get pressed while jostling around in a pants pocket with keys. I’ll probably remove the keychain because it slid noisily against the hard plastic body as I was surreptitiously aiming it toward my electronic victims.
The device sells for $20 on the TV-B-Gone web site, but Z Recommends negotiated a 20 percent discount good through the end of June 2007 (previously advertised as ending in May). Use the coupon code THINKPICS. (Correction: the coupon code is good only for the Generation #2 model which contains all of the newest TV remote codes.) If reading this review after June, check RetailMeNot for other potential discounts.
And if you don’t buy it, and the need arises, summon up the courage to ask people if they’re watching the TV, then ask the room’s authority figure if he or she will turn the TV off. Or if you can, just do the deed yourself.