Hackery: Extending a TV Remote Control

The goal: We have two televisions and one satellite TV tuner. Occasionally, I want to watch something on the primary TV that is not satellite TV. Think DVD, video games, or silence.

Some times, my special lady friend would like to watch satellite TV. I get tired of schlepping the video games to the other room. She gets tired of avoiding watching her shows when I just want to shoot some hookers.

Behold! The TV Remote controll Extender:

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Read on to see how it’s done.Just to be clear, this is an entry level hack, done with ghetto-ass implementation. I wanted something quickly, and I didn’t have the right tools. Those who pursue a higher level of aestheticism will either refine my techniques, or buy some hardware that will do the equivalent (like an IR blaster, or another receiver). I realize that my techniques should be obvious to someone with a hint of common sense and basic electronics.

Supplies:

  1. A remote that you don’t care about breaking. Before you start, verify that the remote works and your batteries work. This will save you time when you are troubleshooting your shoddy workmanship later.
  2. A soldering iron. Solder.
  3. Insulated wire.  I used paired 18 AWG. This is overkill.
  4. Alcohol.
  5. (optional) Some Music. I recommend either TV theme songs,  or something with some heavy metal vamping.
  6. A camera, piece of paper, or a photographic memory to document taking apart your remote so that you can put it back together again.
  7. Screwdrivers. Phillips, and flathead.

Theory:

Your electronic device (TV / satellite receiver) can listen to your remote control, through the magic of Infra Red Light Emitting Diodes (IRLED). Imagine a pulse of light that is invisible to the human eye. I have no idea the specifics of the encoding, but it’s a series of on/off patterns that presents a binary pattern. If I had to guess, it would be pulse width modulated, just like your CD players, only with an incredibly smaller data frame. PWM works by keeping your ons or offs steady for an amount of time proportional to the data you are trying to send. If it’s on for 10 ms, then maybe you mean 10. If it were on for 1 ms, maybe you mean one. Now that I think about it, it’s equally likely that they are using a steady data frame, and each time position is the bit value. What do I look like, wikipedia?

Also, since we’re on the subject, why don’t modern cell phones have an IRLED so you can control electronics? It would put the universal remote assholes out of a business, but I’ve never really cared for them either.

So, let’s say you’re watching TV. A sexy lady comes on and you can see a bit of her cleavage. You say to yourself, “I’m a heterosexual man, and like seeing the female form. It would be a crime for me not to see that again.” Now, the television and the remote, both do not have a button or command for “Jump back so I can rewatch the naughty bit again.” Maybe it should, but for the sake of this tutorial, it doesn’t. You have to speak remote-control-ese. You then press “jump back 5 seconds”. That is translated to a series of numbers, which are pulsed through the airwaves, received by the television, and you are able to reenact your manly desires through the miracles of modern technology.

But, I digress.

Procedure.

Start with a remote control:

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Use your monkey brain to figure out how to take it apart. Remember, just because some asshole with no education was able to put it together, does not mean that you can take it apart without breaking it.

Once you have it apart, bask in the glory of evolution. Not only have we invented a way to capture a visual image of something that happened in the past, and not only have we captured a series of images so that you can watch them in sequence, but you can watch them on your fat lazy ass, and not have to get up to change to a different sequence of images. Aren’t we clever monkeys!

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I’d like to point out a few things about this circuit. It is extremely simple.

  1. There are pads for connecting a circuit for when the button is pressed.
  2. There are two IRLEDs,and a driver circuit.
  3. There is a power regulation circuit where the batteries are connected.
  4. There is a tiny microprocessor that is sitting in the form factor of the older microprocessor that it replaced. They gooped shome shit on top of it (see bottom) in order to make sure you can’t tell what the micro processor is. Not that it would be hard to replace this remote via reverse engineering.
  5. Oh yeah, a switch, to change modes.

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Oh geeze, writing this procedure is getting old. Document how the IRLED is connected. If you accidentally connect it backwards, you could ruin your remote. Snip off the IRLED and leave a small amount of the metal leg so that you will be able to solder onto it later.

Cut your wire to length (I used 30 feet) and strip the ends. Solder one end to the legs where the LED used to go. I used pipe solder and a shitty 40 watt soldering iron. I’m sure you can find better and do a better job. There is a little plastic window where your LED can wave to the television. Make sure you snake your wire through the hole.

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Solder the other end of the wire to an LED. I used an ohm meter to make sure I was connecting the cathode and anode to the correct legs.

Put it all back together. It will probably not fit anymore, because you did such a shitty job, so use some gaffer tape or glue to get it all back together.

I cannot stress this enough: Use strain relief. It should be impossible for the end user to separate the solder joints you made.

Viola: a remote control extender. Now go eat more cheesecake.
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