This is a very interesting question. Each
button on the remote control has a certain code.
When you push the button, the code is sent from
the remote control to the TV by something called
infrared light. Infrared is a type of light
that we can't see with our eyes, but the TV can
recognize. The TV will then see the code that the
remote control sent and perform the button's
command. So when you push the increase volume
button, the remote sends the code for increase
volume to the TV, which then reads the code and
increases the volume.
A TV remote control sends out beams of light
that are invisible to the human eye. The light
beams go out in short pulses, and depending on
what you want to do with the TV (for example, turn
the volume up or increase the channel number), the
remote will send out a different number of pulses
or length of pulses that signal the TV to do that
specific command. A receiver on the TV reads the
light pulses, which is why you have to aim the
remote in the direction of the TV.
The same way light travels from a light bulb to
our eyes, light travels from the remote control to
the TV set. Unlike the light bulb though which we
can see, not all the light is visible. Actually,
we, humans, only see a small part of the spectrum,
of the range of light, from blue to red. Snakes
and bats can see light that is further than red,
called the "infra-red". It is the same light
that fast food restaurants use to keep burger
patties warm after they cook them.
Because the technique is based on light, you
need to be pointing the control towards the TV
set and you cannot change channel if you are
behind the wall : because the light cannot pass.
When you press a button of the remote control, a
series of light pulses get emitted and reach the
TV set directing it what to do.
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