Hacking TVs in 1954

shaddap already!

This gem was published in Mechanix Illustrated magazine in may of 1954. AT that time, a remote control was the stuff of science fiction. This article shows the modern man how to modify his television to include a fancy button to stop all noise. This button, affectionately labelled the “SHADDAP” was marketed as a way to relieve the pain of long winded commercials. Basically, it cut the connection to the speaker, nothing super fancy. Is that an altoids tin as an enclosure?

[via BoingBoing]

32 thoughts on “Hacking TVs in 1954

  1. Sounds like a great idea (pun fully intended).

    I seem to remember a VCR was released (80′s) which would automatically pause recording for the advert breaks. I am not sure, but I think I remember that there was a court case banning the principle of automated advert avoidance.

    Why not give the customers what you know they want?
    They have wanted to rid themselves of the scourge of adverts for at least 56 years on TV’s.

  2. Back when I used to watch broadcast TV channels with adverts I thought about an automatic version of this.

    It would be a SCART pass-through that monitors sound levels. Since adverts are always louder than the programme it would react to sudden increases in volume by either reducing it to match the program or muting it all together.

    It never got off the drawing board and became irrelevant once I moved to downloads, DVDs and BBC channels only. These days surround and digital sound would complicate matters somewhat too.

  3. I remember an old TV I had that had no remote… to turn it on and off “remotely” I hooked it’s power up to my mothers sewing pedal… then when I wanted the TV on, I put a weight on the pedal, and off, simply lifted it. :) Didn’t control volume or channel, but, hey, it was a child’s hack. ;)

  4. Imagine if this would have been patented. A royalty earned for every television that has a remote mute button would be a lot of money. I guess a patent isn’t worth much if you don’t have the means to protect it.

  5. @MoJo I used to have a VCR that could fast-forward if the audio transitioned to mono and stop when it went stereo again. It was fiddly, and you still recorded the commercials, but it did make it a little easier. Fortunately it also had a 30 second FF like TiVo and a lot of other DVRs have.

  6. This is a dangerous hack, tv’s of that time used tube amplifiers with an impedance matching transformer, using those without a speaker load can damage the tubes.

  7. @Bob: Tubes weren’t worth a fortune in that age. :+)

    What amazes me is that the people in that time were so deep into black and white that they used black, white and grayscale colors in *everything*! They even dyed their skin!

  8. Saw an ad-avoidance VCR in the early 90s at a science fair. They kept monitoring the corners for station logos which got turned off for commercials.

  9. I have a VCR that does automatic commercial skipping. After recording, it will (very slowly) go through the tape and figure out where the commercials are. Then when you watch the tape, it will automatically fast forward through them. I’m sure Tivo would’ve implemented something to do this if they could’ve without a ton of legal troubles, but they can’t, and VCRs aren’t allowed to do it anymore either. The stations want you to have to manually skip the commercials. I think MythTV can automatically skip commercials in recordings, but i’ve never gotten it working, so I’m not too sure (and now my tuner is irrelevant because it’s analog)

  10. @bob, thats what I thought, however it is not the tubes that will likely pack up, its going to be the output trans. The no-load situation would be worse for the trans the higher the volume when the speaker is switched out. Proper job would be to put a power resistor in the box which is switched in when the button is pressed. I’ll shaddap now.

  11. 30-some years ago when I was a pretty young kid I remember visiting an older couple who had a difficult time getting up/down from their sofas to change TV channels, volume, on/off (I know now it was arthritis). That was in the days of the knobs to turn to change channels UHF thru 13.

    He wired up a pot for volume, on/off and a pushbutton doorbell that activated a motorized turning of the channel tuner. Put the button and pot in a small box and had a 15ft wire to the back of his TV leading to the internals.

    I was 6-7yrs old and thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever seen!

  12. i thought the tv stations sent some kind of signal between the show and commercials, and that’s how the vcr knew how to skip commercials. I never trusted it though, i’d rather record the crap too, so as not to miss anything important, or say it malfunctions and only records the commercials for you, like realplayer does to hulu. nowadays, with torrenting and high speed internet, it is not as necessary, but having the feature in DVR’s would allow one to store more hours of shit you actually intend on watching. compress the advertisements into low resolution animated GIFs, which play while you have your shit paused.

  13. @Marco: I always thought it funny that some stations are quite happily to draw all over the programs they show, but not the precious adverts. Shows you who the real customer is.

  14. My gran used to have an old tv with a big chunky remote control. Used ultrasound. Well not that ultra as you could hear it whine…

  15. @MoJo
    @jay

    Magnavox and RCA both had their varieties of Smart Sound in the mid 90s. It reacted to increases in volume and normalized it.

  16. There are various programs that scan for commercials and cut them from avi’s and such, that’s what I think the rippers use that put up torrents/usenet shows, and I’m sure they can also simply mark the spots so you can manually verify it doesn’t cut the wrong bits.

  17. My dear old grandma made one of those for his big mahogany colour set. I made one too but was careful to use only sets with transformers, and not the cheaper ones that had ac running through the ground (having ac in the speaker lines). When grandpa got a new transformerless black plastic monstrosity we tried to hook up a remote speaker and “commercial killer” (as he called it) to the new set. I stupidly had the set on while I was working on the speaker wires, as soon as I touched my soldering iron to them it shorted the set out and it was dead dead dead…

  18. Actually Bob it wasn’t the output *tubes* that were at risk but the output *transformer*, and as a teen trainee I often had to replace OPT’s in TV’s and radios that had been hacked by people who where not-quite-smart-enough.

    This still applies to tube-based guitar amps.

    Elektor published a gizmo a while back that mutes the sound when the watermark vanishes – e.g. during ad’s.

  19. I remember a comic book from the Boomer days in which Donald Duck asks Gyro Gearloose to build a similar button which would mute his nephews. Gyro gives a short list of (supposedly) colloquial names for the devices, ending with “a gab-muffer, among other names!”
    Until I saw this article, that was the only time I’d heard of such a gadget. Not that I was around at the time… this comic belonged to my mother when she was a nipper.

  20. I actually just built one of these (wireless though) for the exact same reason. Those annoying ads that come on yelling at you to buy a sofa or laptop. So I hacked an old IR remote into the base of one of those big red emergency off buttons found on large machinery. When a loud ad comes on, “BAM! shuddup!” :)

    Makes me laugh that in 2010 we are still having the same issues.

  21. My aunt and uncle had a VCR with a wired remote control that came with about 20 ft of wire. It was one of the first remote controls I had ever seen and thought it was the neatest thing to not have to get up and go across the room to futz with things, even if the wire was a tripping hazard

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