TV-Be-Gone mischief at CES

The Gizmodos pranked the Las Vegas Consumer Electronic Show by running around with one of MAKE's TV-Be-Gone devices, turning off ever-increasing numbers of TVs (and documenting it on video). I like the bits when they switch off the show-floor display models, but it shades over into too-mean-for-me when they start to switch off the sets that are being used to display slides and presentation materials from live presenters. Still, no biggie -- just turn the TV back on and you're up. Link


  1. Tv-b-gone is the best tech purchase I’ve made in memory. The blessed peace it gives at restaurants and bars (where people aren’t even watching the damn tv most of the time) is wonderful.

    Applause all around for the MAKE/Gizmodo folks for stifling the idiot box, if even for a moment.

  2. Some day when we all have our RFID chip implants there will be a similar device you can use to turn off everyone’s chips. And if you’re caught using it, you go away. Forever.

  3. I agree that the floor-display shut off is hilarious, but screwing with presenters is just mean spirited.

    Karma will catch up…

  4. If you don’t like the TV on at a bar or restaurant, ask the manager to shut it off. If they won’t, don’t go to said restaurant or bar anymore. Don’t be a jerk and potentially ruin it for anyone else.

    While it’s one thing to turn of a wall of TVs, it’s another thing all together to shut off a TV someone is actively using, be it for a presentation or a game.

    Sure, they can just turn it back on but when a screen goes black like that during a presentation I doubt your first thought would be that someone had turned it off from the audience.

  5. I like the tv b gone a lot, and I like Mitch a lot, but I strongly disagree that it is ‘no biggie’ to shut someone’s display off in the middle of a presentation.

    In a civil society you don’t substitute your sense of right and wrong, and of what is, or is not a ‘big deal’ for that of someone else.

    It may be no big deal for you to deal with arbitrary vandalism, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a big deal for someone else.

  6. I agree- displays are one thing, presentations are another.

    Really though- it’s nothing that couldn’t be fixed by a small piece of black electrical tape. I’m surprised stray signals from remotes being used on the floor legitimately don’t cause problems like this anyway. I remember awhile back when I worked at a Sony store and ALL of the TVs apparently used the exact same IR code for Power off/on. You could literally shut off every TV in the store with one push of any TV remote’s Power button. It was very annoying.

  7. I think this person is a total jackass. This is CES – people are actively using all of those TV for their livelihood, turning them off isn’t cute, it’s obnoxious.

    That said, most “pranks” are jackass moves.

  8. I’m with you, Woolie!

    That’s the first thing I thought. How will they stop it and how are they going to get around them if they do try to stop it?


  9. Sociopathic behavior is funny, I guess?

    So, would they be laughing if some hacker took down the Gizmodo site “to be funny”?

  10. The only times I’ve spoken in front of large groups, I was so nervous that if something like this had happened I probably would have decompensated and turned into a babbling idiot.

    Wouldn’t that be funny on video!

  11. Everyone needs grab an appropriate digging tool and get their knickers out of a twist. It’s a harmless prank and Friday for FSM’s sake. Lighten up!

  12. Casio used to make a few watches with built-in universal remote (maybe they still do?). I had one in high school and college and put it to good use messing with my instructors. Turning TVs off was great for laughs but my favorite trick was to turn the volume up till it was just a bit too loud, then when the instructor turned it down, I would turn it way down. The instructor turned it back up, I turned it way up. It gave the impression that the volume buttons were super sensitive. For the grand finale I would change the tv channels or fast forward the vcr tape. This almost got me kicked out of high school, but it was pretty funny to a 17-year-old.

  13. Yeah… it’s not like anyone’s job might be affected by this prank. Oh. Wait.

    I wonder if this at all will affect ad sponsorship on their site.

  14. the humour lies in a supposed pinnacle of technical prowess being twitted with a toddlers stunt.

    If I fell for it once, it would NEVER happen again.

    Funny once joke.

  15. What assholes. What a spoiled sense of entitlement.

    If you don’t like the TV in a restaurant, simply tell them to turn it off, or don’t eat there and support those types of restaurants.

    It’s childish to go around and exert your angst by forcing it on other people.

    This is lame for Boing Boing. These devices have been around for 10+ years…

  16. if Janice Jackson’s left breast was a stupid idea, I guess the publicity department at Gizmodo ride the short bus.

    You can’t buy this press.

  17. If you don’t like the TV on at a bar or restaurant, ask the manager to shut it off. If they won’t, don’t go to said restaurant or bar anymore. Don’t be a jerk and potentially ruin it for anyone else.


    The whole problem with the TV Be Gone is that it allows people to exercise a potentially unpopular opinion without having to take any personal responsibility for it. You don’t want the TV on at a bar or a restaurant? Get your ass out of the chair and turn it off. Or ask the manager or the bartender or the waiter to turn it off. Arguing that the TV-Be-Gone is anything other than an exercise in self-entitlement is BS.

  18. The karma argument can go both ways. I’m sure none of the TV’s they shut off were being used by companies that aren’t in need of karma adjustments…and the people being paid for trying to convince me that a motorola phone will improve my life aren’t exactly angels.

    It was funny and rude. It can be both.

  19. If you don’t like the TV on at a bar or restaurant, ask the manager to shut it off. If they won’t, don’t go to said restaurant or bar anymore. Don’t be a jerk and potentially ruin it for anyone else.

    Why would you go to a bar or restaurant to watch TV?

    Funny prank at a conference, though. I probably wouldn’t have done it, but it’s good to mess with people. The comfort zone is boring. Anyone who’s mad at these guys takes things way too seriously.

  20. Stay classy Gizmodo. At a business event where people were working. Very professional. Anywhere else it *might* have been slightly amusing. As it stands here, not so much.

  21. I love pranks as much as anybody. Absolutely love ’em. I also think the writing staff at Giz are tops.

    This, however, was over the line. It’d be fun to perplex an individual staffing a booth, but to have it impact a full-on presentation with not only staffers but business partners and media present is inappropriate. This might have even impacted a few people’s jobs – either booth staff directly or via potential business deals lost. Hopefully no permanent damage was done.

  22. yeah, I agree with everyone else. TV-Be-Gone is a horrible product, and using it in the middle of a presentation is ridiculous, I hope they don’t get let in next year.

  23. Okay, everyone has now gotten to make the same observation that was made in the original post, so we can relax and kick back. Happy Friday, y’all.

    Can you use those devices to turn down the background music in restaurants? If so, I may need one. Those of you who have normal hearing are welcome to tell me how awful I am for wanting to do that. I won’t agree.

    The really frustrating situation is when the sound is turned up slightly too high for normal people to converse comfortably. They raise their voices. The noise of the crowd turns into a roar. Management responds by turning up the volume. The noise is like a solid wall. But if you turn the volume down, people will sometimes drop their voices and listen harder.

    Guysmiley (13), “sociopathic” should be saved for occasions involving actual sociopaths. When you need the real word, nothing else will do.

    AlexMingoia (21), it would have been a better comment without the last two sentences. I don’t think angst is something that can be exerted. Also, the point wasn’t that the devices were new; it was what was being done with them.

    5000 (24), I’ve asked that, oftener than you can perhaps imagine. It mostly doesn’t work. People who are comfortable with that level of background noise have trouble imagining how hard it might be for someone else. Once in a while I can get the noise turned down by slipping the bartender a twenty.

    Adam Backstrom (26), I’ve been wondering that for years.

  24. I do this every time I go to Target with my remote control watch. It’s hands down my favorite possession.

  25. #26 (Adam Backstrom): The most common case is if there is a key episode of some major sporting event to be broadcast, and you wish to enjoy it in the company of other afficionadoes of the same sport.

  26. Rgrdng ns lvl, f y dn’t lk t, y shld fnd nw plc. Sm brs xst xplctly fr wht’s n th TV nd s tht ppl cn hr wht’s n th TV, whch s why mngmnt kps trnng t p. Th rglrs r thr t wtch th TV nd t wngs nd drnk br, nt tlk (xcpt ccsnl shts f “G [nsrt ftbll plyr nm hr]!”) thr brs r th sm wy, bt fr th jkbx. prsnlly try t sty t lst 100 mtrs wy frm thr f ths! fnd th qtr brs nd g thr. wld nvr g nt sm frtby sprts br nd ftz rnd wth th vlm r swtch t t Lftm jst bcs tht’s wht ** wnt. Tht’s jst ncnsdrt.

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  27. Whiterwitch, I suspect I know more about noise levels and types of bars and restaurants than you ever will. You’re to be congratulated. You don’t need to be constantly mindful of small differences in sound levels and overall social philosophies. I do.

    As for the “funny vandalism” bit, did you notice the original entry saying it stopped being funny when they started messing with presentations? If not, did you perhaps notice my previous remarks about people in the thread feeling obliged to repeat that observation (implicitly: “as though they were the only one who’d made it”)?

    And for pete’s sake, why am I still here in the office, moderating Boing Boing? It’s nearly ten o’clock on a Friday night! I’m going home to my husband, my hamster, some Chinese takeout, and a nice double shot of tequila.

    Goodnight, all.

  28. Fsckwad? Could we either say fuckwad or not use it in the first place? You don’t generally get disemvoweled for quoting an obscenity from a source. Switching out a letter or adding an asterisk doesn’t really change the meaning of the word. It just makes us look like ten year olds.

  29. There’s audio of a nice talk entitled “Desgn noir” among the clips from the 24th Chaos Communication Congress of Chaos Computer Club.

    ladyada talks about TV-Be-Gone and other subversive gadgets.

    Among the talks that are on video (as well as audio) Mitch (creator of TV-Be-Gone?) talks about making gadgets.

    link to talks audio:

    videoed talks:

    ps. If you don’t want people messing with your tv via remote, cover the ir-reciever with black tape or something.

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