Tech talk: With David Behrens

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HOW many remote controls do you have cluttering up your lounge right now?

Every device comes with one, to the point where you start to look like a juggler with a handful of Indian clubs every time you turn on the TV and DVD. I counted four in various crevices of my sofa; five if you throw in the one for the digital photo frame. But you can easily combine of all of them in a single unit, and sometimes add functions you didn’t have in the first place.

Logitech and One For All are among the companies marketing these universal remotes – and they’ve come a long way since those early ones you had to program yourself. The latest Logitech models plug into your PC or laptop and download information about your TV and other devices from the internet. You can then transfer functions from the original remote to your choice of button on to the new one.

The more expensive handsets have screens from which you can select functions relevant to what you’re doing – rather like mobile phones. A replacement zapper is obviously essential when you’ve lost the original – but even if you haven’t, having everything at your fingertips is surprisingly liberating – especially now that more and more services are becoming available through your telly.

If, for instance, you have a Freesat receiver under your set, you can see the BBC iPlayer and ITV equivalent on your screen and navigate using the same remote – far handier than watching on a computer. Freeview boxes will also gain this functionality in the future. The next generation of so-called YouView boxes will go further still, combining all these services and the internet, too – so you can order a movie, download and watch it without ever getting up from the sofa. It’s what the industry calls “convergence” – the combining of lots of separate services into a single box. For years it was technology’s holy grail; now, finally, we’re starting to see it happen.

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