More knobs than Dr Who's Tardis console

Alex Darcy is 46, lives in Suffolk with wife Jane, daughter Emma, 14, and son James, nine, and wonders how life got so . . . baffling

Alex Darcy is 46, lives in Suffolk with wife Jane, daughter Emma, 14, and son James, nine, and wonders how life got so . . . baffling

LIKE the Duke of Edinburgh, I'm married to my very own queen. But there the similarity ends . . . apart from a shared befuddlement over TVs. For Prince Philip yearns for simpler controls, and I concur with the consort - though his observation that “To work out how to operate a TV set you practically have to make love to the thing” is just too much information. (Me, I always practise safe sets. Boom, boom.) Anyway, you'd have thought the royals would have a lackey to punch the buttons and switch from Snog Marry Avoid? for the X Factor update.

Buckingham Palace obviously isn't a refuge for technological Luddites, since it's got its own whizzy Royal Channel on YouTube. Riveting stuff, that footage of The Prince of Wales launching a partnership between Duchy Originals and Waitrose. You can't help hoping it's the Queen holding the digital recorder and capturing all those jerky shots of oranges and courgettes as a favour for her son. And wouldn't it be great if the Civil List was subsidised by a �250 windfall from You've Been Framed for home (palace?) footage of a corgi sliding off the back of an ermine sofa or scampering away with a tiara?

I'm similarly ready to move with the times and technology. Last Christmas I draped my computer with fairy-lights plugged into the UXB hole (or something like that). Why, this week I even signed up for Twitter, to learn what one of my favourite authors was getting up to. My life is so enriched for knowing that “Hmm . . . time to break off for another drink. Will it be tea or coffee?” Can anyone know the point of Twitter, by the way? And who has time and inclination to write and read these banalities?


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But back to TV controls. Once, all you got were buttons to turn the set on and off, and alter the volume, brightness, contrast and colour levels. (And at the back of the set, where it smelled of warm wiring and Bakelite, the horizontal and vertical holds.) I could cope with that.

Following the mating of TVs with video recorders and DVD players, and the arrival of technological offspring such as satellite channels, the remote control box looks like Dr Who's Tardis console. As the number of functions has multiplied, so the buttons have shrunk in size so they can all squeeze on. And more symbols have to be dreamed up - squiggles that grow ever more obscure: one arrow pointing to the left, three arrows to the right; the letter C; something that looks like a five-bar gate; a dot that could be the sun. It's a challenge to us folk who need bright sunshine and varifocals to decipher writing smaller than our thumbnail.

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The kids roll their eyes before making a sharp exit, thus avoiding Dad's Lecture #347: about how wonderful it was when channels were known by numbers, like the rockets in Thunderbirds, and not by daft names like Dave and Kerrang!

Trouble is, designers are invariably young folk, their minds more on artistic purity than helping an old fogie click onto the right channel for Countryfile. Have a heart, guys and gals - one day, you'll be relying on those varifocals.

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