Your Universal Remote Control Center
Glossary of Remote Control Terms
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 Glossary of Remote Control Terms 

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A through L:

Active Matrix: The best type of color LCD display, also known as TFT. Active matrix screen control each pixel individually and have the best sharpness, color and clarity. See also: LCD screen, passive matrix.

Activity Control: An intuitive method of controlling a home theater using common activities, such as "Watch a Movie" or "Watch TV". Each activity includes the most commonly used functions from every device involved in making that activity work, along with macros to make it work automatically. See also: device control, macro, device.

Alias: A term used when an infrared code or macro is linked to from another button. So, instead of maintaining multiple copies of a "System On" macro or "volume up" command, the actual code or sequence would be stored only once and referenced to as many times as necessary. This is used to both conserve memory and make it easier to change the remote in the future. The term "punchthrough" refers to an automated way to alias several codes at once. See also: punchthrough, macro.

Ambient light: The amount of general light available in a room at any given moment. When this term is used in conjunction with a remote control it usually represents the light level while the home theater system, and thus the remote, are in use. Moderate to low levels of light typically represent the most difficult conditions to use a remote control under, and are thus where good backlighting and LCD contrast are most useful. See also: LCD screen, backlight, contrast.

Backlight: A feature employed by many remote controls which illuminates the LCD screen or keypad for use in the dark. The two most common types of backlighting include LED and electroluminescent (EL). Remotes backlit with LEDs are typically bright but uneven with a yellow or green color, while EL panels are smooth with blue, white or green shades. Some EL panels feature various brightness settings. See also: keypad, LCD panel, contrast, ambient light, light sensor, pickup sensor.

Basestation: See RF extender.

Batteries: Remote controls can use either standard AA and AAA batteries or include a custom rechargeable pack. Battery life is determined by many factors, including backlighting, LCD screen, the amount of use and signal strength. The average battery life for an all-hard button remote control is greater than one year, while backlit LCD models may go anywhere from several weeks to several months. See also: battery type, memory backup, rechargeable, LCD screen, backlight.

Battery type: Most remotes use standard disposable alkaline AA or AAA batteries, however those that come with rechargeable batteries will use either NiCad (Nickel Cadmium) or NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride). NiCad batteries are infamous for their "memory effect", which is a condition that reduces the battery’s power storage capacity over time, while NiMH are for the most part immune. A newer battery type, LiIon (Lithium Ion), suffers from no memory effect and can hold more power in the same physical space, but has not been used in remote controls due to its prohibitively expensive cost. See also: batteries, rechargable.

Bitmaps: Graphical images that can be used by certain remote control PC software packages to personalize and enhance a remote control. For instance, you could design your own button style for display on a dot-matrix LCD screen, or include television station logos that, through a macro, enters a specific television channel number. See also: software, files, LCD screen, soft buttons, macros, page.

Codes: Can refer to either the numeric codes needed to program a preprogrammed remote control, or the actual infrared signals transmitted by remote controls to devices. See also: preprogrammed, learning, infrared emitter.

Component: See device.

Component Button: See device button.

Contrast: Either an arbitrary description of how "clear" an LCD screen is for viewing, or a specific adjustment that allows you to customize the screen’s visible characteristics. See also: Ambient light, LCD screen, backlight.

Delay: Usually a pause placed between two steps in a macro. Delays may be required in order for some devices to properly sense two separate commands, or may be used to wait for a device to finish powering up. Most remotes with macro capabilities insert a preset delay between steps; some allow you to lengthen that delay or completely customize it. See also: macro.

Desktop charger: See docking station.

Device: Most remote controls are capable of controlling a certain number of devices, or pieces of equipment. Examples of devices would be televisions, DVD players, receivers or VCRs. Some devices, such as receivers or dual-cassette decks, may be treated by some remotes as more than one device. Also known as components.

Device Button: A button, normally at the top of the remote control, that switches the remote to controlling a different device. Also known as component buttons. See also: device control, device.

Device Control: The most common type of remote control, where each device has a separate button and is controlled individually. Pressing one of the device buttons changes the remote to control that device. When finished, press another button to switch to another device. See also: activity control, device button, device.

Discrete codes: Versions of toggle codes that only perform one function. Some examples would be "POWER ON" and "POWER OFF" or "VCR", "TUNER" and "DVD" receiver inputs. These types of signals are most often used to ensure your home theater components stay completely in sync for powering on and off and changing device inputs. For more information on discrete codes and the Philips Pronto remote, click here. See also: toggle codes, TOAD, macros.

Docking station: A separate item that seats the normally mobile remote control, used to either recharge the battery or connect the remote to a PC. See also: batteries, rechargeable, PC interface.

Dot matrix: See LCD panel.

DPI: Dots, or pixels, per inch on a dot-matrix screen. The higher the number, the "smaller" the pixels, resulting in a smoother image. See also LCD Panel.

Electroluminescent panel: See backlight.

Emitter: See infrared emitter.

Extender: See RF Extender.

Files: Indicates PC-enabled remote control configurations including one or more of the following items: infrared codes, macros, bitmaps, layouts. Many software packages allow you to share files between users or over the internet. See also: software, learning, preprogrammed, macros.

Firmware: Indicates the programming software stored on the remote control. Some remotes can have their firmware flashed (upgraded) to a newer version through a PC connection. See also: flashing, PC interface.

Flashing: The process through which the firmware on compatible remote controls is upgraded to a newer revision. See also: firmware, PC interface.

Frame advance: A now mostly obsolete button which steps forward one frame though a movie while in pause mode. See also: keypad, jog/shuttle.

Frequencies: The range of infrared carrier frequencies that a remote control is capable of learning or controlling. Most remotes operate between 30 and 60kHz, however some use higher and are thus known as high frequency. See also: learning, high frequency.

Hard buttons: Refers to all physical (mechanical) buttons on a remote control. User Hard Buttons See also: user hard buttons, keypad, joystick, transport, jog/shuttle, rocker buttons, soft buttons.

High frequency: Indicates an infrared system that employs frequencies higher than the industry standard. Some examples would be Bang & Olufsen, Kenwood (455KHz) and older Pioneer Elite (1.125MHz). Such devices are never preprogrammed into off-the-shelf remote controls and can generally only be used with very specific learning remote controls. For more information visit this page. See also: frequencies, learning, IRDA, infrared emitter.

Infrared: AKA "IR". A portion of the light spectrum above our visible range, used by many modern remote controls to transmit signals. See also: frequencies, codes, infrared emitter, infrared receiver, operating distance, RF.

Infrared emitter: A light emitting diode used to transmit infrared signals from a remote control. Generally, the more and better the emitters, the stronger and wider the resulting signal. A remote with strong emitters can generally be used without pointing at the desired device. Emitters are also partially responsible for any limits on the range of frequencies that can be controlled. Emitters are always placed at the "top" of a remote control and are typically shielded by a red plastic window. See also: device, infrared receiver, frequencies, high frequency, operating distance, learning.

Infrared receiver: The portion of a device that receives infrared commands from a remote control. Since infrared is actually light, it requires line-of-sight visibility for best operation, but can still be reflected by items such as walls and glass. Poorly placed IR receivers can also result what is called "tunnel vision", where they are set so far back into the chassis of a device that the operational range of any remote control is severely reduced. See also: device, infrared emitter, operating distance.

IRDA: Despite there being a compatible IRDA standard for use in remote control applications, some companies have instead used the incompatible pulse system geared towards high-speed computers. Currently, some pre-programmed remotes based on the UEI database can be upgraded to operate these devices. See also: learning, pre-programmed, high frequency.

Jog: Part of the jog/shuttle combination.

Jog/Shuttle: Typically a combination of a dial and a ring on a VCR, LD or DVD player. The free rotating jog dial allows you to advance or reverse frame-by-frame through a movie, while the shuttle ring steps through various play and reverse play speeds. Some shuttle rings rotate 360 degrees and speed up or down once for each "click" in a direction, while other shuttle rings have more limited movement with specific speeds at certain positions. Due to these different designs no universal remote as of yet has featured a jog/shuttle. See also: transport, hard buttons.

Joystick: A feature on certain remote controls, the joystick is a single pointer which replicates five functions for menu control: up, down, left, right and enter. See also: hard buttons.

Keypad: Generally refers to all hard buttons on a remote control, or more specifically the numeric keypad (0 through 9). See also: jog shuttle, transport, joystick, rocker buttons, backlight, soft buttons.

LCD screen: A display device built into many remote controls. Some remotes may include a small LCD screen that displays mode or programming information, while other remotes may be completely built around a large touchscreen featuring changeable buttons. LCD types include dot-matrix, which can be configured to display any text or graphics, and etched, which can only display what the designers intended it to. The majority of LCD panels are backlit. See also: soft buttons, backlight, active matrix, passive matrix, contrast, ambient light, DPI.

LED: See infrared emitter or backlight.

Learning: The process through which a remote control captures and stores infrared signals from other remotes for later use. Not all remotes are learning capable; these would be called preprogrammed remotes. Some factors which can affect the ability of one remote to learn another would be code length, signal frequency, type of signal and the amount of learning memory available. For help on learning IR codes view this page. See also: preprogrammed, frequencies, RF, VisionTouch, high frequency, IRDA, parity bit, two-way, infrared emitter, software.

Light sensor: A feature on some remote controls that automatically activates the backlight when the ambient lighting reaches a certain level. See also: backlight, ambient light, pickup sensor.

Link: See alias or punchthrough.

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