The remote control for our multi-channel box no longer works properly. The big buttons that allow you to access menus and recordings still work. So do the small buttons in the centre (play, record, pause, stop), and so do the numbered buttons from 0 to 9, so we can easily switch channels (46 for Challenge, 9 for BBC4 and so on). But the two small buttons to the right of play and pause, for forwarding, no longer work. For a while I could operate them by pressing my thumb-nail very hard into the centre of either button, but not any more. One of these forward buttons allowed you to jump ahead at different speeds (2x, 6x, or up to 30x), depending on how many times you pressed it. The other jumped forward in increments of 60 seconds. Now we can no longer fast-forward in either way.
I can just about activate the rewind buttons, on the left of the remote. Like their counterparts on the right-hand side they allow you to rewind at different speeds (2x, 6x or up to 30x) or in timed increments (15 seconds rather than 60), and I have to dig my thumb-nail hard into the centre of the required button to make it work.
This has affected how we watch TV. We cannot fast-forward through our recorded programmes. We are watching more adverts than ever before. I now watch the recordings of 1985 editions of “Top of the Pops” without flicking through them. (They are broadcast after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, on BBC4.) I didn’t even watch them in real time when they were first shown. I got my first VCR in 1985, recorded “Top of the Pops” most weeks, and was able to forward through the many songs that I didn’t especially want to watch. There weren’t too many that I rewound to watch again. The current series is up to about September 1985 and in the eight months’ worth of shows that have been broadcast since the start of the year only three performances stood out: The Rah Band’s “Clouds across the moon” (I always had a soft spot for this one), USA for Africa’s “We are the world” and Paul Hardcastle’s “19”, one of the UK #1s that features a number in its title.
We have also noticed the absence of adverts in some of the shows we recorded. “Britain’s Brightest Family”, an ITV Wednesday night quiz show presented by Anne Hegerty (the Governess from “The Chase”), sometimes featured no regular adverts at all, just trailers for upcoming shows and the shorter messages from their sponsor, Cathedral City, who make cheese. By contrast Saturday night’s “Britain’s Got Talent” has regular ad-breaks featuring all sorts of things, as you’d expect from one of the channel’s most popular programmes.
Our inability to fast-forward wouldn’t matter so much if it hadn’t been for a technical change made by our digital TV provider last year. There was a software update which, inevitably, nagged away for weeks, asking for permission to run before it went ahead and ran anyway. Before the update I could move to any point in a recording by entering the number of minutes or hours to jump to, using the 0 to 9 buttons. Entering 45 would jump to 45 minutes, entering 120 would jump to 1 hour and 20 minutes, and so on. I used this feature regularly, but it was removed during that last software update. Instead of jumping to an exact point in a recording, by typing numbers, I now had to use forward or rewind. Maybe that’s what’s wore those buttons out.