Back in 1992, when I was still in short pants and an egg cream cost a nickel, William S. Burroughs put in a guest appearance on Ministry’s then brand new single about heroin addiction. There he intoned: “SMASH THE CONTROL IMAGES. SMASH THE CONTROL MACHINE.” It was an exciting time to be alive. Extry! Extry! cried the newsboy on the corner. Homosexual narcotics fiend records with clown prince of industrial metal! Read all about it!
As always, Burroughs offered sage counsel, but smashing the control machine was easier said than done! In those days, the job required a stickball bat or a ball-peen hammer, and then there were the hazards of the cathode ray tube to contend with. I would have to wait a full decade before a good, wise, industrious inventor named Mitch Altman solved this problem with his TV-B-Gone, a special universal remote control for TVs. What’s so special about it, you say? It only has one button: OFF.
I don’t think I have to spell out the ways you, the suave and cunning Dangerous Minds reader, might use this device for mischief around the house. Let’s face facts: if you can’t figure out how to irritate friends, bewilder relatives, or enrage enemies with a universal off switch for TVs, pranks just might not be “your bag.”
But it’s the public applications of this device that interest me. Say, friend: how do you like it when strangers bombard your personal nervous system with upsetting lights and sounds, to say nothing of falsehoods and wrong opinions? Because I myself do not care for it. No, when I think of all the times I’ve been stuck in an urgent care waiting room listening to Judge Judy scream, sipping weak coffee from a Styrofoam cup at the mechanic while Dr. Phil takes a word solo, on the treadmill at the gym while Fox & Friends blather on like nincompoops, scrambling the brainwaves of senior citizens, or “eating” “lunch” in Baja Fresh as the National Speed Cutting Chainsaw Championship unfolds on several 65” HDTV screens simultaneously, I want to commit murder.
Happily for me and the rest of the human family, there is a nonviolent solution. Point this little keychain gadget and CLICK! Darkness. Silence. Peace. At $19.99, the TV-B-Gone is one of my favorite stocking stuffers, but not for long. Last month, Altman’s email bulletin announced: “this is the last holiday season that you or anyone will be able to buy a TV-B-Gone remote control.” Make haste to Cornfield Electronics to buy the last crop of these suckers before they are discontinued. The handy among you might prefer Cornfield’s DIY kit (or Adafruit’s, or Make’s), but all are very close in price to the pre-assembled gizmo.
After the jump, TV-B-Gone inventor Mitch Altman speaks about hackerspaces at TEDx Brussels…