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Why do men hog the Remote?

Updated on October 25, 2015

"A humorous look at today's remote addicts"

One theory suggests that men tend to hog the TV remote control because they no longer need to adjust the reception like they did when the television was first developed for our viewing pleasure. Although this statement may seem a bit exaggerated, there was a time, about fifty or so years ago, when it was not possible to do this simply by clicking a button.

The antenna

Before the invention of cable, there was something called broadcast television where one had to get the signal from the air if you wanted to get a good clear reception, much the same as the radio or cell phone does today (Delemos, 1997-2001). Those were also the days when televisions actually had knobs, called on/off adjustment knobs, and antennas had to be turned in order to get a good reception. In order to accomplish this feat, one (usually the husband) had to climb up onto the roof, and while turning the antenna he would yell "Can you see it yet?" Then the wife would yell back an unearthly "yea" or "nay" because she was annoyed at having to stop whatever she was doing in the kitchen to help her man.However, ironically, the program was usually over or the reception was distorted once again by the time the husband got down off the roof and seated in his easy chair, so he would have to do it all over again. Perhaps this is one instance when the remote control unit would have benefited both parties because the husban would not have needed to risk life and limb in order to watch his favorite program and the wife's interests would not have been interrupted.

Then came channel surfing

Channel surfing made it's debut about five decades ago. The first hand held tuner, called the "Lazy Bones," was developed in 1950 by Commander Eugene F. McDonald of the Zenith Electronics Corporation (then known as the Zenith Radio Corporation) as a way to conveniently drown out the noise of commercials.This device used a cable which ran from the television to the remote, much like many of our computers and other electronics do today. A motor in the back of the TV set operated the tuner through this control and by pushing certain buttons, the viewer could rotate the tuner clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on whether a higher or lower number was preferred. This device also included buttons that turned the TV on or off, so the husband no longer needed to get up to tune the TV, change the channel, or turn it off. The only drawback was the cable, which people often tripped over as it meandered across the floor.

The Flashmatic

The problem with the cord was solved about five years later with the advent of the "Flashmatic" which was operated by means of four photo cells, one placed in each corner of the TV screen. Now members of the audience could use a highly directional flashlight-like device to activate the four control functions, which turned the picture and sound on or off and changed channels by turning the tuner clockwise or counter-clockwise without the aid of the cord. Now the whole family could get together to sit down in front of the television set (usually with a bowl of popcorn) to watch their favorite shows without the hassle of tuning the antenna or the worry of tripping over the cord. And like everything else, remote controls have come a long way since the 1950s. They are much more technologically advanced, and almost every TV set, VCR, or DVD player includes one.

Ego mania?

However, contrary to the above notion, and according to a recent personal survey (2010), masculine power is still evident in a number of families, especially when it comes to the conflict over viewing choices. Why is this so? One theory is that some of the masculine persuasion feel that because they are the head of the household, it is their right to control the remote. However, In this survey, none of the women questioned used remote controls or even watched TV regularly. However, a number of them did complain that their husbands used the remotes excessively, even while they (the wives) were trying to watch something else. And according to a personal interview with C. Carpenter (2009), this trend seems to be handed down from father to son, which is a highly visible symbol of "ego mania."

Exceptions to the rule

However, interestingly enough, and according to this author's own personal observations, there are exceptions to the above overall pattern. When the husband is unemployed while the wife is working, it is a bit more common for other family members to share the remote, thanks to recorded programming. Here, many times the wife can record her favorite shows and watch them when she gets home, or the husband can watch his favorites at a later time or while his wife is at work, thus a sort of trade-off, or mutual agreement, is often established.


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    • Deerwhisperer profile image

      Brenda K Krupnow 3 years ago from Ravenden, AR

      I would have agreed with you before my husband passed away, but now that I'm living alone I am more technology minded than ever.

    • profile image

      andrew 5 years ago

      too many buttons for women to comprehend...

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 6 years ago from Southern Nevada

      When I came to this country 30 years,(cough) we were just getting color television.

    • attemptedhumour profile image

      attemptedhumour 7 years ago from Australia

      We hog the remote because we're really good at watching six things at the same time and we don't want to miss anything. I'm the king at fast forwarding the ads to exactly the right point. I also read the TV guide, so i actually know what is on. (rubbish, in most cases) Cheers

    • Deerwhisperer profile image

      Brenda K Krupnow 7 years ago from Ravenden, AR

      I remember those days all too well. All we had back then was black and white, as mostly only the rich could afford color TVs back in the 50s and early 60s. And I can still remember what a thrill it was to get to go to my dad's boss's house to watch "Bewitched" in color, LOL.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Interesting history of TV. I was always behind the times and didn't get cable until about ten years ago. We need it now because unless we want a mile high antenna we don't get any reception where we live. I would rather do without TV than climb around the roof.

      Befoe cable we didn't get enough channels to be worth arguing over.