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For The Third Time, Yes!

January 9, 2017

A man, who was getting a little bit older, was worried about his aging wife’s hearing. Conversations had become a little more difficult. He assumed it was the natural effect of her growing older. Her vanity wouldn’t let her admit that she was having a problem. The man went to to his family doctor for advice. The doctor explained a simple test that would clearly show how well his wife could hear. The man resolved to try it that very evening.

I have old electronics. Not all of them, of course. My lovely wife gave me a new cell phone for my birthday last month. (Yes, you missed it. No, I didn’t really expect anything from you.) But, for the most part, I tend to use electronics until they quit working. I recently had a problem with my DVD player. After many years of service, the remote finally quit working.

This was actually not as severe an issue as it might at first appear. The DVD player has manual controls on the front. If we want to watch a movie, we just need to stand by the DVD player and press the FORWARD button to skip all the previews and then hit PLAY when it gets to the main menu.

All was good until one of my kids gave my lovely wife a set of Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs (Seasons 4-6) for Christmas. Our strategy no longer works. Each disk has 4 episodes on it. Using our method, we can only see the first episode on each disk. (We have an XBox in the living room that we can use, but this is the DVD player in the bedroom.)

The inconvenience of this was finally enough to convince me to do something about the broken remote. I didn’t have hopes of actually fixing the old one. Instead I bought a universal remote. The problem was that most new electronics use a 5 digit programming code. My DVD player is old enough it only knows how to use a 4 digit code. I tried putting a “0” or a “1” at the front. No luck. I searched online. I looked at blogs. I tried codes for devices that seemed “close” to mine. Nothing worked.

I finally decided I might have to take a try at fixing the old remote after all. I have a neighbor, Jonathan, who is one of those people who just knows stuff. He’s great with cars, computers, sprinkler systems and programmable Christmas light shows.

Hey, Jonathan, do you think you could take a look at this DVD remote?

What’s the problem?

It’s been broken for a while and I can’t make a universal remote work with my DVD player.

Are you sure it’s the remote?

What do you mean?

Just that it might be the DVD player.

No, I’m pretty sure it’s the remote.

When you push buttons on the remote, does it broadcast a signal.

No. Well, I don’t think so. It’s infrared, of course. So, I can’t tell.

Use your cell phone?


Turns out that while the naked eye cannot detect infrared, your cell phone can. You turn on the camera, point the infrared device at the lens and . . .well, this.

I’m used to Jonathan showing me up in this way. It’s like he’s saying, “Here, let me share knowledge that I assumed everyone knew, but I in no way will make you feel inferior for not knowing.” It’s why I like him as a neighbor.

No, my remote is not broken. My DVD player is broken, and that’s why no amount of Universal Remote programming would work. I was struck by how often we approach a problem with the solution already in mind. Cognitive dissonance prevents us from even conceiving of the right answer, let alone finding it.

The man’s wife agreed to let him test her hearing. He had her stand facing a wall while he stood across the room.

Honey, can you hear me?

he asked in a normal tone of voice.

No reponse. So, he took a few steps closer.

Sweety, now can you hear me?

Still nothing. The man was surprised and a little sad at how much her hearing had deteriorated. Finally, he walked up until he was right behind her.

Now can you hear me?

For the third time, YES, I can hear you.

I wonder if he also had a problem with his DVD remote?

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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