My history of researching, buying, using and discarding universal remotes to operate my home entertainment equipment might be comparable to my search for the perfect computer mouse: neither quest has thus far resulted in finding a product that seems to fit my wishes perfectly.
In these days, with an ever growing pile of eletronics devices that can be remote controlled, it is not hard to imagine that many people are looking for a single universal remote that can replace them all. The idea seems easy: just put all functionality of the seperate remotes into one new device. However, in practice, it seems to be very hard to turn this idea into a well executed product. This is due to a number of reasons that I try to explain in this article.
Although early remote controls in the 1950s used ultrasonic sound to communicate, the consumer electronics industry moved almost entirely towards infrared by the late 70s, early 80s. Using infrared has a number of huge disadvantages, the most prominent of them of course being the fact that you have to have a clear line-of-sight between the remote and the device. If the signal gets blocked, the command will not arrive. (Imagine how things would have looked today if instead of light, the remote used a radio signal. There would be no loss of signal, and a device could be operated even if it was locked up in a closet.)