Stephen Fry on one of the most frustrating and useless gadgets devised by man, the so-called Universal Remote Control
Column “Dork Talk” published on Saturday 27th September 2008 in The Guardian “URC: Universal Remote Control or Useless Rotten Crud” – The Guardian headline.
I yield to few in my love of gadgets: let a new gizmo arrive in the post or be brought back from the shops and you will see me fall on it like a lion on an antelope – I will savage the hard, clear, welded plastic packaging with my teeth and let out growls of drooling hunger and mews of pleasure. Out tumbles the doodad and straight away I will plug it in, install its drivers, power it up and connect it, and to hell with the manual. No matter how gimcrack or futile the toy might be, the adrenaline will surge, the lips part and the breathing come in shallow stertorous pants of ecstasy.
Better five or six remotes that work than one universal remote that doesn’t. Photograph: Getty
Actually, there’s a rider to that – aside from apologising for using the phrase “pants of ecstasy”, I ought to make it clear that there is one genre of gadget that over the years has proved so preternaturally disappointing, so remorselessly useless, that I receive it with dread. I am talking about the so-called Universal Remote Control. I have drawers full of them. Over the years I have bought more than 50, and not one was any use. Someone gave me a cheap market stall giant URC as a joke and that – oddly enough – is the only one I use, but it is configured only for the TV, which brings me to the principles underlying these wastes of plastic.