In honor of Will Leitch’s Gawker Media colleagues doing their best to punk this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, I figured it might be time to drag this chesnut out of the vault. From CSTB, November 5, 2004 :

(this handy device enables social ‘tards to impose their chosen environment on others.)

Yesterday’s “Circuits” section of the NY Times contained Seth Schiesel’s article on San Francisco engineer Mitch Altman, whose “TV B Gone” (above) has become a wildly popular item with the television-phobic members of the public, if not journalists across America.

Essentially a one-trick remote control, TV-B-Gone quickly spits out roughly 200 infrared codes and, within customary remote-control range, turns off most televisions in a few seconds. “Restaurants and the Laundromat, those are the big ones for me,” Mr. Altman said, leaning over from his workbench, which was surrounded by at least five computers and covered with arcane chip-programming gear, a soldering iron and an ancient (though functional) oscilloscope.

“Whether TV is on or off is a choice, and I would love for it to be a conscious choice,” he said. “All over the place, TV’s very often are just on, and no one put a lot of thought into whether to put it on or not. And then people don’t really have a choice of turning it off. TV-B-Gone is about giving people that choice.”

I can only admire the tenacity of an inventor that would spent years and tens of thousands of dollars developing such a product rather than, say, eat at home. Or purchase a washer/dryer.

Earlier this month, Altman told a writer from the AP that he first got the idea for TV-B-Gone a decade ago when he was out with friends at a restaurant and they found themselves all glued to the perched TV instead of talking to each other. No one was around to turn the TV off.

Once again, we’re talking about a brilliant man that would go to such lengths to turn remotely off televisions rather than say, find an eatery with no set blaring. Or get some friends who were better conversationalists.

Speaking as one of the few who will openly admit to enjoying the intrusion of CNN, ESPN, Maury Povich and the like in bars, waiting rooms, restaurants, airline terminals, etc. perhaps Altman (above) could spare a thought for those of us who have other, less universal hang-ups about daily interaction with the rest of the human race? Where’s my “Annoying Chit-Chat B Gone” remote, that would allow me to render blowhards, know-it-alls and their ilk mute while I’m trying to concentrate on more important issues (like how to kil them with my bare hands?) How about all of the taxi drivers that insist on playing crap music or hate-fest radio? Where’s my ‘lil remote that will put the kibbosh on such an annoyance? I mean, I could always ask the driver to turn the fucking thing off (much as Altman and his acolytes could humbly ask the owner of an otherwise empty tavern or restaurant to kill the TV for 5 minues) , but wouldn’t it be so much easier to pretend I’m the only person alive with thoughts or feelings?

There’s not much of a cottage industry in politely saying “would you mind turning that off, I’m trying to read the Times’ “Circuits” section?”