Sony Universal Remote Inspired By Star Trek?
I still have my 32" CRT Sony television that I bought in the early 90's - one of my first "grown up" purchases. It's a great TV set that still pumps out a great picture (contrast looks great since Sony tinted the glass used in some of their picture tubes to darken their natural neutral grey color) even after nearly 20 years of daily use. I got it at a great price since it was the last one (you know I love a bargain), but the remote was missing. I didn't care much, but the clerk enthused about the "Star Trek clicker".
Sony wanted $50+ for the remote but I cajoled them into sending it gratis. I asked about this Star Trek reference, and the lady on the phone said "yeah, I guess so", but wouldn't say anything more. I had to wait until the RM-Y119 arrived. It was my first universal remote (which I could never get to talk to other devices, as usual), and it did have an unmistakable resemblance to the communicator from the classic Star Trek series. In its closed state, you've got a few large buttons for channel and volume control. Hit the button on the side, and the spring loaded flap swings open to reveal everything else you need to operate the TV. Trek fans often cite flip-open cell phones as being inspired by the communicators from the TV show. Maybe so, but this universal remote would also make Scotty proud.
At the time, remotes were getting more and more complex as the televisions (irritatingly) had fewer and fewer physical controls onboard. This led to larger and more awkward remotes (wait till you see the nightmare that runs my laserdisc player!), but a few companies figured out that the viewer typically only uses a few buttons day to day. The solution I'd seen back then was bundling two separate remotes with each device. One large remote bristling with every kind of knob, and then a much smaller one with a reduced set of controls.
With the trouble that most people have keeping track of a single remote, doubling that number wasn't a popular solution. Not only does Sony's RM-Y119 look slick, but it's an elegant solution to the problem. It's unfortunate that this didn't become the norm. I have a coffee table full of remotes engineered by sadists who only begrudgingly acknowledge potential human interaction. I doubly curse those credit-card sized remotes with the little plastic dimples you pucker top operate (these easy to lose remotes usually accompany appliances rendered useless without their teeny tiny remotes).
The remote control is how we relate with our electronics every day, but it's rare to encounter one that gives any thoughts to ergonomics or aesthetics. This Sony remote solves a number of these problems neatly, and has endured a lot of use in our relationship. Sony has had their share of misses to in the usability department in years before and since, but every once in a while they get it exactly right.
If you'd like to get a Star Trek remote of your own, there was a universal remote in the mid 90's modeled after the phaser gun from "The Next Generation". They turn up on Amazon and Ebay from time to time.