Hacklet 118 – Infrared and Universal Remote Controls

The first remote control for a TV was the Zenith Space Command back in the 1950’s. Space Command used sounds at ultrasonic frequencies to control the set. It wasn’t until the 1980’s and the Viewstar cable box that infrared entered the picture. Remote controls spread like wildfire. It wasn’t long before every piece of consumer electronics had one. Coffee tables were littered with the devices. It didn’t take long for universal remotes to hit the scene. [Woz] himself worked on the CL9 Core device, back in 1987. Even in today’s world of smart TV’s and the internet of things, universal remotes are still a big item. Hackers, makers, and engineers are always trying to build a device that works better for them. This week’s Hacklet is about some of the best universal and IR remote projects on Hackaday.io!

smoteWe start with [Harikrishna] and zmote. Zmote is an open source WiFi enabled, infrared,  360° remote control. That’s a mouthful. It might be easier to say it’s an ESP8266 and some IR LEDs. An ESP-01 module connects the device to WiFi and provides the 32-bit processor which runs the show. Learning functionality comes courtesy of a TSOP1738 modulated infrared receiver. The beauty of the Zmote is in the software. REST and MQTT connectivity are available. Everything is MIT licensed, and all the code is available on Github.



Next up is [Benjamin Kenobi] with TV Remote Control, Limited. Not everyone can operate the tiny buttons on a modern remote. [Benjamin] built this device for Easton, a special kid with a disability that impairs his motor skills. The 3D printed case holds two buttons – one for power, and one to change the channel. An Arduino Nano running [Ken Shirriff’s] IR library is the brains of the operation. The IR signal timing is hard coded for simplicity. One problem [Ben] ran into was the Nano’s high current draw, even in sleep mode. Batteries wouldn’t last a week. A simple diode circuit with a reed relay keeps the Nano shut down until Easton presses a button.


openirNext we have [Nevyn] with OpenIR – Infrared Remote Control. A dead DSLR remote shutter release was all the motivation [Nevyn] needed to start work on his own universal remote control. OpenIR can be connected to (and controlled by) just about anything with a UART – a PC via an FTDI cable, a Bluetooth module, even an ESP8266. The module can be programmed by entering pulse length data through a custom Windows application. The Windows app even allows the user to view the pulses graphically, like a scope. The data is stored on an EEPROM on OpenIR’s PCB. Once programmed, the OpenIR board is ready to control the world.

onebuttonFinally, we have [facelessloser] with One button TV remote. This project may be the simplest open source remote control this side of TV-B-GONE. He wanted to build a simple remote control for his young daughter to scan between the various kids channels. A simple toggle switch turns the device on, and one button performs the rest of the magic. [Facelessloser] wanted to “move up” from an Arduino to an ATtiny85. This project became part of his ATtiny education. A custom PCB from OSH Park ties things together. A simple black project box keeps the electronics safe from tiny fingers – at least until she’s old enough to use a screwdriver.

If you want to see more IR and universal remote projects, check out our new infrared and universal remote projects list. See a project I might have missed? Don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

A Mountain of Prizes For Projects Using These Parts

Here’s your chance to bring some great stuff home from The Hackaday Prize. For the next 3 weeks we’ll be looking for the best entries using Atmel, Freescale, Microchip, and Texas Instruments parts.

Each of the four contests (yes, four running concurrently) will award the top 50 projects. That’s 200 in total being recognized. The odds are really in your favor — currently some of those lists have less than 50 projects on them — so enter yours right away! Scroll down to see the mountain of prizes that we have for this epic run.

Make Sure We Know About Your Entry

There are two things you need to do to be eligible for this pile of awesome stuff:

  1. Enter your project in the 2015 Hackaday Prize
  2. Leave a comment here with a link to your project and we’ll add it to the list

Do this by the morning of Monday, June 29th to make sure you’re in the running. We’ve been diligent about adding entries to the lists for Atmel, Freescale, Microchip, and Texas Instruments but at the rate new entries have been coming in it’s easy to miss one here or there. Don’t be bashful about asking to be added to these lists!

The prerequisite is to be using a part from one of these four manufacturers. We’ll be looking at these lists for projects using great ideas which have also been well-documented. Tells us why you’re building it, what it does, how you came up with the idea… you know, the whole story!

The Loot

Up for grabs in each of the 4 contests are:

3x Mooshimeters which is a multimeter that uses your smartphone as a wireless readout.

2x DS Logic analyzers which [Adam] reviewed a few weeks back.

15x Stickvise to hold your PCBs (and other things) in place while you work

A continuation of what we’re giving away in each of the 4 contests:

10x Bluefruit LE Sniffers to help you figure out what’s being transmitted by your BTLE devices

10x Cordwood Puzzles; grab your iron and tackle this head-scratching soldering challenge

10x TV-B-Gone is an iconic invention from [Mitch Altman]; one button turns off all TVs

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Sonic Screwdriver meets TV-B-Gone


[furrysalamander] has a friend that is a really big Doctor Who fan. It happens that this friend has a birthday coming up, and [furrysalamander] wanted to get her something amazing. A Sonic Screwdriver is always a great gift, but [furrysalamander] wanted to put his personal touch on it. He ended up adding a TV-B-Gone to [10]’s screwdriver, turning a fictional deus ex machina into a functional device.

The body of the Sonic comes from this replica of [10]’s screwdriver from Think Geek. Inside, the screwdriver has space for a battery a circuit board to control the lights and sound normally expected of a sonic screwdriver. [furrysalamander] added a freeform circuit composed of an ATtiny85, a transistor, LED, and a few resistors to add the ability to turn just about any TV off.

Of course [furrysalamander] needed to program the ATtiny with the TV-B-Gone firmware, and lacking any AVR development tools he used a Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins to write the firmware to the microcontroller. That’s something we’ve seen before, but [furrysalamander] is a champ for including the process in his Instructable.

The end result is a Sonic Screwdriver that doesn’t work on wood and can’t break a deadlock seal. It turns off TVs just fine, though, and looks great to boot. You can check out a demo of [furrysalamander]’s sonic in action after the break.

Continue reading “Sonic Screwdriver meets TV-B-Gone”

A TV-B-Gone with a PIC twist


[Kayvon] thought that the TV-B-Gone was a fun little device and wanted to build one, but he didn’t have an AVR programmer handy. Rather than picking up some AVR kit and simply building a replica, he decided to give his PIC skills a workout and build a Microchip derivative of his own.

The PIC-based TV-B-Gone is pretty similar to its AVR-borne brethren, featuring a PIC24F08KA101 at the helm instead of an ATTiny. His version of the TV-B-Gone can be left on indefinitely, allowing him to situate the device in a convenient hiding place to wreak havoc for as long as he likes.

[Kayvon’s] TV-B-Gone does everything the original can at just under $7, which is quite a bit cheaper than the Adafruit kit. If you’re not averse to perfboard construction, be sure to check out the build thread over in the Adafruit forums. [Kayvon] has done most of the heavy lifting for you – all you need to do is build it.

TV-B-Gone can double as a camera remote control

[Christopher] found a way to get a bit more mileage out of his TV-B-Gone kit. The little device is intended to turn off every television in range with the push of a button. But at its core it’s really just a microcontroller connected to some infrared LEDs. Instead of sending codes to shut of televisions, you can rewrite the firmware to send a camera remote shutter release code.

It doesn’t take too much to pull this off. You need a way to flash new firmware to the device, and you need to know the new code timing that you want to send. Since the firmware is open source it’s easy enough to make code changes, and there are several easy methods of flashing AVR devices (like the tiny85 used here), including using an Arduino as an ISP.

But [Christopher] did more than just add the Nikon code for his camera. He realized that there’s a jumper to select between European or American television codes. Since he wasn’t using the foreign option, he replace that pin header with a switch that selects between normal TV-B-Gone operation and camera shutter release modes. Nice.

IR remote control jammer makes you Lord of the Livingroom

Bring communications jamming technology into your TV viewing experience by building this infrared LED driver circuit. You’re probably familiar with the TV-B-Gone, which let’s you turn off any television at the touch of a button. But what if you actually want to watch the program that’s currently on the screen when the person with remote-in-hand doesn’t? That’s where this little marvel comes in.

[KipKay’s] IR jammer uses a 555 timer to constantly transmit infrared traffic. The signals it’s sending out don’t correspond to commands the TV (or any other IR remote-controlled device) will respond to. But if the light intensity is strong enough, they will interfere with any signals coming in from a remote or even from a TV-B-Gone. [KipKay] wisely hides this circuit inside of another remote control so that the other couch potatoes you are thwarting won’t get wise to what’s happening. If they want to watch something else they’ll have to get up and walk over to the entertainment center to do something about it, and what’s the chance that’s going to happen?

Don’t miss [KipKay’s] infomercial-esque presentation of this gadget after the break.

Continue reading “IR remote control jammer makes you Lord of the Livingroom”

Reverse engineering the Telly Terminator

[Oliver] received the Telly Terminator as a gift and decided to take a closer look at it. This key fob has two buttons; one shines an LED like a flashlight and the other turns off televisions. Sound familiar? Yeah, it made [Oliver] think of the TV-B-Gone as well.

He cracked open the case to find just a few components. The brain behind the IR signals is a Helios H5A02HP. Only a few pins are used for outputs so he connected a logic analyzer and recorded the signals. His writeup covers the process quite well. He takes a known IR transmitter protocol and compares it to the capture from the logic analyzer. It turns out that the fob generates 46 different signals and with further analysis concludes that there’s a chance the code used here is from an older version of the TV-B-Gone source.