So Amanda had this TV. It had a remote. The remote sucked. It was broken. Then I moved in and with me came a universal remote. Lucky Amanda. I programmed the universal remote (a Radioshack 5 in 1) to handle the TV as well as a DVD player and a stereo. The remote handled everything. The old remotes hung around for a while occasionally being used, but then disappeared. Then we got a different DVD player and I had forgotten that the remote was a universal jobbie, so we just started using the remote for the DVD player Then we got an iPod cradle with speakers and a Roku. I purchased a Radio Shack switchbox during the Creation Science Fair at Har Mar in 2010 (some of you will remember that i did that, I was showing off a bit.) I ran the Roku to the TV via the switchbox. I ran the new DVD to the TV with the switch box. I got rid of the stereo (it was 99 percent broken). The switchbox was necessary because of the lack of connectors on the TV. While I was doing that, I also ran all of the audio outputs to the iPod cradle. And there was a Wii, so that ran through the switchbox to the TV as well as the iPod cradle.
So we had a TV remote that was originally a universal remote, but we forgot that it was a universal remote. We had a DVD remote. We had a Roku remote. We had a remote for the iPod cradle. We had a switchbox which was not have a remote but was kinda like a remote.
- … to watch TV: Using the ex-universal remote, turn on TV, operate with remote.
- … to watch Roku: Use ex-universal remote to turn on TV and switch to channel zero, go to switch box and hit “aux” button, press button on iPod cradle remote to turn it on. Depress second button on iPod cradle remote for a moment to switch from iPod mode to aux in put mode. Use Roku remote to operate Roku. If done improperly there will be a big noise. Make appropriate adjustments.
- … to watch a DVD: Use ex-universal remote to turn on TV, change to channel zero, activate iPod cradle and switch from default (iPod input) to aux input. Hit the switch on the switch box to switch to DVD. Operate DVD using DVD remote.
- … to play the Wii: Activate and switch input to iPod cradle. Turn on Wii with Wii controller. Hit switch on switchbox to switch to “game” and use ex-universal remote to turn on TV and switch to channel zero. Operate Wii with Wii controller devices.
We got used to it.
Then, we got a new TV with multiple inputs. Now, everything is plugged into the TV, so the switchbox and the iPod cradle remote are out of the picture. We’ve gone from five remotes/switches to three, but it seems like we’ve simplified a lot more than that.
So, last night, I’m looking at this ex-Universal remote, suddenly remembering that it is not just a TV remote but a universal remote that now has only one job: Operating the TV, and even that job is obviated because the TV is no longer with us. And I got thinking, “Huxley’s getting pretty good at stealing and hiding the remotes. I wonder if I could adapt this universal remote to operate some or all of our devices, to have it as a backup.”
So I got on line and checked manuals and stuff and no, this universal remote is old and won’t operate the TV or the Roku, though it might operate the DVD player, but that is hardly worth doing.
So we went from:
- A TV with a remote
- A DVD player with a remote
- A Stereo with a remote
- Universal operating TV, Stereo, DVD
- Universal operating TV
- Switchbox facilitating use of several other devices
- iPod cradle remote operating sound on iPod Wii, DVD, Roku
- Roku remote
- DVD remote
- Universal = no longer has function
- iPod cradle operating iPod
- DVD remote operating DVD
- TV remote operating sound on Roku, Wii, TV and DVD
- TV Remote operating TV
- Roku Remote
And all this time we’re basically sitting there on the couch doing the same thing.
Globin gene family anyone? Opsin gene family? Myosins? G-Proteins? Proein Kinases? Cytochromes? Silent genes? Vestigial organs?
In just a few short years the same basic function (sitting on the couch watching stuff, sometimes just listening) has been supported without interruption, but over this time almost every single device has been replaced and many have changed their relationship to each other. Remotes all derive from some ancient primordial remotes. Perhaps the remotes are related to the switch boxes, which go WAY back in evolutionary time. Somewhere in the garage I think I have two mono RCA rotator switches that were first used in my parent’s stereo, installed in parallel by my brother to allow switching the inputs to an amp from a stereo, a wire recorder, and a reel-to-reel, in the year Kennedy was shot. Surely, these fossils represent the ancestors of both remotes and switch boxes. Over time some of these devices have become vestigial. The more costly vestigial devices were eliminated from the system right away (costly to have laying around). The TV remote is still there but no one is keeping track of it any more. It was almost co-opted to take on a novel function (as secondary backup remote) but that did not happen to work out. Perhaps it will become a Huxley toy. The batteries have already been scavenged by whatever organelle does that.
The most interesting thing here is the bit about the function being preserved as the underlying gear changes. That clearly happens in evolution. After all, how can we have male and female sexes in so many related organisms with fundamentally different underlying processes to get those two sexes? Even if there are a few common proteins (and there are not unless something has been discovered recently) definitively linked to all examples of animal sex differentiation, we already know that males and/or females and/or hermaphrodites are derived from very different steps and use different parts and different genes to get that way.
There are of course systems that work exactly the opposite way. There are no light-using systems in animals that I can think of (correct me if I’m wrong) that don’t at some point use a derivative of an opsin coding gene. Opsin seems to be the only thing that gets you the ability to convert photons into neural impulses. Yet even this system has its underlying complexity in phylogeny, ontogeny and function. There are eyes that turn ON the neurons to send signals to a brain (or whatever) and there are those that turn OFF the neurons to send signals to a brain (or whatever). But they all use Opsin and surficial similarities such as those we see between the eye of a squid and the eye of a sperm whale are evolutionary homeoplasies (convergences).
It is interesting to contemplate a tangled media center, draped with many cables of many kinds, with an amplifier singing mpgs, with various dvd players flitting about, and with an old vhs turning into damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth of new technologies; Inheritance of old gear which is almost implied by going to the store to buy new gear; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase of equipment so high as to lead to a Struggle for Shelf Space, and as a consequence to Remote Selection, entailing Divergence of Digital Formats and the Extinction of less improved formats. Thus, from the war of AV, from Copyright and DRM, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the surround sound home theatre. There is grandeur in this view of a living room, with its several power strips; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, advertised as being on sale this weekend!