Mice, speakers, webcams, game controllers and keyboards. Some time ago Logitech, the company best known for manufacturing mass quantities of small computer accessories, set their sights on the consumer electronics industry. At the time that was the “in thing” for cash-flush computer companies to do: as computers gradually merged with home entertainment, it was becoming increasingly important to have a foot set firmly in both doors. But rather than launching another rebadged series of flat panel displays or marketing some hybrid computer system, Logitech set their sights on something positioned a little closer to their core focus. Something small, technologically advanced, and ripe for development.
Coincidentally, in a land far north of the border – Canada, that is – a small upstart company named Intrigue Technologies just happened to have their own small, technologically advanced gizmo. Created by a couple of guys who had begun with nothing but an idea, a patent on said idea, and a box of leftover cell phone parts, in only a few short years those ingredients had been carefully nurtured into the fastest growing universal remote control line on the planet: the Harmony. Quicker than you can say “an offer that couldn’t be refused”, Intrigue Technologies became Logitech and the Harmony – well, it’s still the Harmony, but it can now be found in practically every corner electronics store and boasts name recognition second to none.
Can you hear me now?
But how did the Harmony get to that point? That initial box of assorted phone parts played a big role, with the first “Easy Zapper Harmony” (read our review – later renamed the Harmony 745) bearing a startling resemblance to a Nokia cell phone that had spontaneously melted with a Sony cell phone after a hot summer’s day locked in a glovebox. The sparsely buttoned Harmony remote offered users something appealing: straightforward and intuitive operation. Instead of flitting between a number of independent devices to make your A/V system perform an everyday activity, you simply told the remote to “play a movie” or “listen to a CD”. The Harmony would take care of the rest by turning everything on, setting the correct inputs, and then presenting only the most frequently used commands associated with that task.
It may not have been a completely original concept, as the Harman/Kardon Take Control unsuccessfully attempted a similar idea several years earlier; however the Harmony had some new tricks up its sleeve that made an activity-based remote a more practical venture.
First was “Smart State Technology”, a patented concept that uses several techniques to automatically keep track of the power and input states of devices. This allowed users to seamlessly switch from one activity to the next, even with devices that lacked discrete codes. (For those unaware, “discrete codes” are commands that perform one function. For example, a command for [Video 3] would only jump to the “Video 3” input no matter how many times it is sent. A more common “toggle code”, such as [Input], would arbitrarily select the next input based on whatever input is currently active.)