No one can deny the convenience of a television remote control these days. And now they seem to be able to do most anything – from changing channels to initiating recordings. But what is the technology behind these little devices that make them magically bring up the TV guide or raise and lower your flat screen television in your TV lift cabinet?

Remote controls were first used in WWI by German naval vessels to direct them into Allied boats. Then in WWII, remote controls were used for detonating bombs. Now over sixty years later, remote controls have a much more peaceful use.

For at-home use, most remote controls are powered by infrared (IR) technology. Infrared light is also referred to as “heat,” and remote controls rely on the use of light to carry its signal from the control to the device it directs. On the electromagnetic spectrum, infrared light falls on the invisible portion, between “visible” and “microwave.”

The signal sent out by the remote control is in binary code; that’s how the media player or TV knows whether you are telling it to turn up the volume or switch the channel to your favorite show. Binary codes are built by ones and zeroes, and they leave the remote control via transmitting LEDs. They are received by the media device or TV’s microprocessor. However, if you own a TV lift cabinet, the remote control’s signal is first captured and resent to the media player through the Infrared Relay System, standard on all ImportAdvantage’s pop-up TV cabinets.

Different TV manufacturers use slightly different binary codes for basic functioning, and this is why universal remote controls have to be “programmed” to your specific TV brand before they work. An example binary code for a Sony TV to make the channel go up is “001 0000”.

Even though infrared remote controls have been the industry standard for the last 25 years, they are limited by their range, first and foremost, which is only about 30 feet. While it is not necessary to “aim” your remote control directly at your device, you do have to point the LEDs on the remote control in the general vicinity of your media player or TV in order to get the signal across. If you are in a highly sunlit room, it could cause some interference with your remote’s signal.

To advance the technology behind remote controls for home theater use, some niche manufacturers are moving toward radio frequency (RF) remote controls, which are what directs a home garage door opener. The major advantage of a RF remote signal is that the exact signal for the function you powering (channel up, channel down, etc.) is emitted directly from the remote, so there is no need to point an LED to a microprocessor. However, the downside is that there are a lot of competing RF signals around the home (cell phone, Wi-Fi, cordless phones, etc.). But their range goes as far as 100 feet.

So hopefully you now have a deeper appreciation for your remote control; we just can’t help you find it between the couch cushions!