Death By Remote Control: Has Convenience Ruined Our Culture?

As I’ve mentioned before, I wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child. However I do remember the television set my parents owned when I was little: it was only black and white, the screen was probably smaller than my current laptop, and it had (get this) a KNOB to change the channels.

That’s right, if you wanted to watch one of the other four stations we got at the time, you had to GET UP and manually adjust the set.

Now, my partner and I have a big flat screen TV that weighs a fraction of that old tube set, hooked up to an Xbox that allows us to change the channel with voice command. Craziness. But how did we get from knobs to spoken words? Via the remote control.

Although remote control devices have been around since the late 1800s, it wasn’t until the 1950s that they became common home appliance. The early ones had cords! By the 1980s remote controls employed infrared signals that allowed for my more precise controls, and are still in use today.

But are we really better off because of the invention of the remote control? There are some who would say no. After all, the very notion behind the remote signals a general laziness and apathy that now permeate our culture. We’re flabbergasted by the notion that we might have to put physical effort into anything we do. As a result we’re fat, sick, and depressed. We don’t even appreciate the miracle of what’s happening when we use a universal remote: we just curse at it for having too many buttons. There’s also some evidence that remote control’s encouraged a sort of cultural ADD, where we’re never content to choose a show and see how it goes. Instead we’re constantly channel surfing, flipping back and forth rapidly in an attempt to watch two, or maybe even three shows at once.

And once we had the ability to control things remotely, it opened up an entirely new brand of technology that could operate without direct human contact. Thiswas immediately scooped up by the military with dreams of drone warfare, which have now come true.

Scroll through the infographic below to learn more. Then let us know whether you agree that “remote control led to the downfall of society.”

Pannam Remote Control Infographic

Infographic by Pannam

Image via Thinkstock


Elly Bontecou
Elly Bontecou2 years ago

Hello to everyone! We found this discussion very interesting. We had to think well it is true but we don't think it ruined our culture. Look at all the new technologies that are helping ADHD. We are using a neurofeedback program called Play Attention that runs on our computer and is wireless and has an armband that transmits the data. Our son wanted to laugh, to love and communicate with us but his little brain just was not making a connection.Now he can. So if we didn't have this new technology we would not be seeing the great progress that has changed our lives.

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert2 years ago

Honestly, though, can you imagine a KNOB that would have 1000 channel positions?

Michael A.
Michael A.2 years ago


Val M.
Val M.2 years ago


Mickey Clees
Past Member 2 years ago

I don't know if the remote control is actually the impetus to the fall of humankind ... BUT it is spiraling donward at an ever increasing speed.

Donna Ferguson
Donna F.2 years ago


Elvira W.
Elvira W.2 years ago

On the other hand, long life to the remote controls that direct robots that served in Afghanistan by remotely detonating explosives and are now repurposed as "firebots" in London.

People control remote controls not the other way aroud...

Dale O.

Funny this should come up...Death by remote control. I tried out the remote recently and have to report the Death of remote control. It won't work, even with fresh batteries. Not that it matters, there is the old fashioned way of pushing the on/off button which I am already used to doing.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper2 years ago


Michael A.
Michael A.2 years ago