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电视遥控器令人意想不到的起源

更新时间:2018-9-27 19:55:37 来源:千亿千亿国际娱乐官网 作者:佚名

The surprising origins of the TV remote
电视遥控器令人意想不到的起源

It began with something TV viewers of the 21st Century can still identify with – anger over the adverts.

故事要从21世纪的电视观众仍认同的一件事说起,那就是对广告的愤怒。

In the 1950s in the US, Zenith Electronics president Eugene F McDonald gave the company’s engineers a challenge: he hated having to sit through adverts. He wanted a device that could let him mute them, or skip to another channel (…where hopefully something other than adverts were playing).

上世纪50年代的美国,老牌电子公司天顶电子(Zenith Electronics)总裁麦克唐纳(Eugene F McDonald)给公司的工程师们提出了一个挑战——他讨厌耐着性子看广告,所以希望有一种设备可以把广告设定为静音或者跳转到另一个频道。

The remote control as we know it was born.

我们所熟知的遥控器就这样诞生了。

McDonald’s wish spawned a revolution, changing the way we watched television – less as a passive observer, more a ruthless overseer. If we didn’t like what we saw, a new channel was the flick of a switch away.

麦克唐纳的愿望引发了一场革命,改变了人们看电视的方式——少了些被动的观看, 多了些“无情”的监督。如果我们不喜欢所看到的,轻按一下遥控器便可换一个频道。

Zenith’s game-changing device was called the Flashmatic, designed by an engineer called Eugene Polley and released in 1955.

麦克唐纳这个改变整个行业游戏规则的玩意叫做“闪光自动”(Flashmatic),由天顶公司一位名叫波利(Eugene Polley)的工程师设计出来,1955年上市。

“He was not an electrical engineer, but a mechanical engineer,” says John Taylor, the in-house historian for Zenith and a press director at its parent company LG, of Polley. “So the device was largely mechanical.”

天顶公司内部的历史学家、LG电子(天顶电子的母公司)的新闻总监约翰•泰勒(John Taylor)说: “波利不是电气工程师,而是机械工程师,所以这个装置基本上是机械的。”

There had been devices that could change TV channels before, but these had been attached to the television itself – the remote connected by an umbilical cord. The most famous of these was Zenith’s own Lazy-Bones. It allowed the user to turn the TV on or off and change channels – but not mute those pesky commercials.

以前也有一些设备可以切换电视频道,但这些设备都是通过一根脐带状的管子连接到电视上。其中最著名的是天顶公司自己的产品——懒骨头(Lazy-Bones)。用户能用它打开或关闭电视和更换频道,但不能让那些烦人的广告静音。

The Flashmatic was completely free of the TV set. It used “a directional light source with a sensor in each corner of the TV screen”, says Taylor. “This allowed the viewer to mute the sound, turn the channel over to the left or the right, all by flashing the button at the screen.”

“闪光自动”完全不被电视机束缚。泰勒说:“它可以向电视屏幕四角的传感器发射定向光线。只要对准屏幕按下按钮便可转换频道与静音。”

In keeping with the 1950s preoccupation with space and modern design, the Flashmatic looked like something Flash Gordon might use against some otherworldly threat. “This was the era of Sputnik and Buck Rogers,” says Taylor. “It looks like a little green ray gun.”

20世纪50年代,人们热衷于太空科学和现代设计。为了顺应潮流,“闪光自动”看起来就像是闪电侠用来对抗某些超自然威胁的武器。泰勒说:“这是人造地球卫星和巴克·罗杰斯的时代。它看起来像一把绿色的小射线枪。”巴克·罗杰斯是上世纪上半叶太空科幻作品中的一个角色。

There was one big problem with Zenith’s space-age contraption, however. Those four sensors in the corner were sensitive to more than just the light being zapped from the TV watcher’s hand. “Depending on where your TV was located in your lounge, as the Sun came up it might actually turn on the TV or change the channels,” says Taylor.

然而,天顶电子的太空时代新装置存在一个大问题,那就是电视机角落里的四个传感器不仅仅只对电视观众手中的发射光敏感。泰勒说:“这取决于你家的电视机在休息室的位置。太阳升起的时候,如果正对太阳光,太阳光可能会打开电视或者改变频道。”

What might have looked like a child’s toy also came with a very adult price tag. “The Flashmatic added $100 on to the price of a television set,” Taylor says, “and that’s at a time when you could buy a car for $600.”

这个看起来像儿童玩具的东西有一个非常“成人”商品的价格。泰勒说:“附加'闪光自动'使电视机的价格提高了100美元, 但那个时候你只要花600美元就能买到一辆汽车。”

Zenith went back to the drawing board – this time the drawing board of one of its electrical engineers, a physicist named Robert Adler.

天顶电子开始重新构思——这次的设计者是公司的电气工程师,一位名叫阿德勒(Adler)的物理学家。

Adler’s invention got rid of the zapping light rays of the Flashmatic. He would have to come up with a new way for the remote to talk to the TV.

阿德勒的发明不再像“闪光自动”一样发射光线。他必须在遥控器和电视之间创造一种新的沟通方式。

One idea was radio waves, but that was dismissed early on, says Taylor. “If you were in an apartment building, you might start changing the channel on the TV in the next room as well as your own.”

泰勒说:“其中一个想法是无线电波,但这在早期就被摒弃了。如果在一栋公寓楼里,你在切换自己房间的电视频道时,有可能也换掉了隔壁邻居的电视频道。”

Adler’s decision? Use sound. The new Zenith remote, called the Space Command, was an ultrasonic remote that used hammers hitting aluminium rods within the remote. These rang at certain frequencies – forcing the television to turn on or off, changing the channel or muting or un-muting the sound.

阿德勒做出了什么样的选择呢?他利用了声音。新的天顶遥控器被称为“太空司令部”(Space Command),是一种超声波遥控器,使用锤子敲击遥控器内的铝棒。这些声音会以一定的频率发出,从而打开或关闭电视,改变频道,或使电视静音或重新发音。

Culture writer Steven Beschloss says remotes such as the Space Command are elegant and simple. “Key to their appeal, I think, is their clarity of purpose. They only had a few functions and the user could enjoy the simple, easy operation. It’s a long way from many of our more complicated remotes of today.”

文化作家贝索斯(Steven Beschoss)表示,像“太空司令部”这样的远程设备既优雅又简单。“我认为,它之所以这么吸引人的关键是明确的目的性。这个设备只有几个功能,容易操作。但是发展到今天复杂许多的遥控器,这是一条很漫长的路。”

The Space Command looked like a Star Trek prop, with just four protruding buttons – worlds away from today’s devices which might crowd several dozen onto a slim rectangle of plastic. The buttons struck the rods with a nearly whisper-quiet sound (it earned the nickname ‘The Clicker’) but it ushered in the era of ultrasound remotes – a method used well into the 1980s.

“太空司令部”看起来就像《星际迷航》里的道具,只有四个突出的按钮,与今天几十个按钮挤在一个薄薄的塑料方块上的设备截然不同。太空司令部的简单按钮敲击金属杆,发出极轻微的声音(人们将它称为“响片”),它开创了超声波遥控器的时代。这种方法一直沿用到上世纪80年代。

The frequencies used in remotes like the Space Command were too high for the human ear to pick up, though they could be discernible to animals such as dogs and cats. (I can remember my older brother and sister chasing my grandparents’ cats around the house with just such a device.) Taylor says that there was an apocryphal story at Zenith that during testing, one female lab assistant flinched every time the device was tested, due to her keen sense of hearing.

像“太空司令部”这样的遥控器使用的声频很高,人类的耳朵听不到,但狗和猫等动物能识别。(我还记得我的哥哥和姐姐就用这样的装置在家里追逐祖父母的猫。)泰勒说,在天顶有一个虚构的故事说,在测试期间,实验室的一位女助理每次测试时都会躲开,因为她听觉十分敏锐。

TV remotes had no more than a handful of buttons until the mid-1970s. In fact, it was the BBC which partly created the need for a more complicated device. In 1974, it launched Ceefax – a text-based service which used spare capacity in the analogue TV frequencies – in the UK. It was, however, impossible for most TV viewers to call up the pages of news, sports and financial information using a normal remote.

直到20世纪70年代中期,电视遥控器上的按钮还不多。事实上,英国广播公司(BBC)在一定程度上已创造了适应更复杂需求的设备。1974年,该公司在英国推出了Ceefax,即提供资讯的电传视讯服务,该服务使用模拟电视频率的备用容量。然而,对于大多数电视观众来说,用普通的遥控器查看Ceefax提供的新闻、体育和金融信息是不可能的。

A new controller had to be created, one that would have space for a number keypad (to call up the different page numbers) and to switch between the text service and normal TV. The remote as we know it was beginning to take shape.

人们需要一个新的遥控器——有足够空间放置数字键盘,便于输入不同页码,并且能在文本服务和普通电视之间切换。我们所熟知的当代遥控器逐渐成形。

Enter the next phase of the TV remote. The increasing need for more and more functions led the designers to look for a different way of communicating with the TV set. They found the step up via infra-red light. Suddenly the remote you used became whisper-quiet (and the nickname ‘The Clicker’ became redundant).

电视遥控器步入了发展下一阶段。对功能需求的增长促使设计师寻找一种不同的方式与电视机沟通。他们找到了上升的阶梯,那就是红外线。突然,你使用的遥控器变得很安静(“响片”这个昵称变得多余了)。

But through the 1980s and 90s, with the rise of cable TV and the explosion of ancillary devices such as video recorders, DVD players and games consoles, the remote became… rather bloated.

但在20世纪80年代和90年代,随着有线电视的兴起,以及录像机、DVD播放机和游戏机等辅助设备的激增,遥控器变得……相当“臃肿”。

In a piece for Slate back in 2015, the writer mulled over the sudden proliferation of buttons on a device that used to be a time-saver. “There's an excess of buttons… 92 of them, to be exact, arranged on my nightstand in rubbery rows, seven different colours' worth, with overlapping labels that range in tone from clear and aggressive ("POWER," "FREEZE") to meek and mysterious ("SUR," "NAVI),” he wrote. “I counted up the buttons I've actually pressed – not the ones I've pressed most often, but the ones I've pressed, period. The number was 34. I had a surplus of nearly five dozen.”

在2015年《Slate》杂志的一篇文章中,作者仔细考虑了这种本是为了节省时间的设备却按钮激增的现象。文章说,“按钮实在太多……准确说,有92个,这些橡胶按钮排列在我的床头柜上,有七种不同的颜色,上面的标签语气从清晰、有攻击性(“力量”、“冻结”)到温顺和神秘(“苏尔”、“纳威”)。我数了数我实际按下的按钮,不是我最常按的按钮,而是我按过的按钮。数量是34,剩下五十多个按钮都是多余的。”

“The arrival of cable television in the 1980s, with dozens and dozens or even hundreds of channels, ushered in an era where programmable remotes had to operate many different functions and a diversity of televisions,” says Beschloss. “The remotes, like the cable systems themselves, became more difficult to deal with.”

贝思克劳斯说,“20世纪80年代有线电视的出现,拥有数十个甚至数百个频道,开创了一个新时代——可编程遥控器必须多功能且适合多种电视。遥控器,就像有线电视系统本身一样,变得更难操作。”

But recently things have changed. We may be returning to another golden age of the remote – partly thanks to the fact that we’re not watching as much TV on our television sets, and the remotes we’re using don’t necessarily have to be held in our hands.

但最近情况有所改变。我们可能会回到遥控器的另一个黄金时代,部分原因是我们看电视的时间并不多,而且遥控器不一定非得握在手里。

“Not only are we moving towards being able to use our phones to operate all our home devices, we are now seeing wireless devices that take verbal demands,” says Beschloss. “Rather than searching for my remote control under or between the cracks of the sofa, you just have to tell the wireless device what show or channel you want on your TV screen. As somebody who currently has about seven remotes thrashing about my den, that feels like progress.”

贝斯克洛斯说:“我们不仅正在朝着能够使用手机操作所有家庭设备的方向发展,现在的无线设备甚至可以接受语音命令。你只需告诉无线设备你想在电视屏幕上播放什么节目或频道就行了,而不用在沙发裂缝下或缝隙之间寻找遥控器。作为一个书房有7部遥控器要按的人,我认为这是进步。”

The only downside with this new version? It’s a lot more difficult to act out your Buck Rogers fantasies.

这个新版本唯一的缺点是什么?那应该更难满足你对巴克罗杰斯的幻想。

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