The Gadget That Blanks Out The Z-Listers

The rise of the Z-lister is one of the worst happenings of modern society, so imagine never having to hear Alex Reid or Chantelle Houghton on TV ever again. One gadget genius has made this dream a reality ...
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Sometime in the not-too-distant future, you're going to find yourself with a child on your knee (hopefully your own, otherwise questions will be asked) trying to explain why life before the invention of Sky+ might be worthy of the sobriquet 'The Good Old Days'. And you're going to struggle.

You'll wax lyrical about the joys of being forced to watch TV according to the whims of a group of anonymous scheduling executives. You'll speak evocatively about your commitment to catching something on its first airing, rather than waiting 18 months for it to be repeated. And you'll tell fantastic tales of a giant box in the corner of the room, which you fed with clunky black tapes that could magically store up to three hours of unwatchably grainy footage. Meanwhile, your child will have already programmed three HD series links from an app on their watch in the time it took for you to clear your throat.

Like it or not (and if you contemplated cancelling your subscription in the wake of the whole News International scandal - the 'not' is more than likely) Sky+ changed our lives for the better. The luddites will dig in their heels and claim that we've surrendered our freedom to our EPG displaying overlords. But be honest, when did you last waste a couple of hours flicking through the channels to find something to watch?

While you're busy doing something less boring instead, your loyal Sky+ box is thinking of ways to make your life easier. It's running through its own channel guides, carefully selecting things you'd want to watch based on your viewing habits, and offering them to you like a stalker with a HDMI cable stuck up its arse.

On a recent edition of 8 Out Of 10 Cats (the one where Jimmy Carr was insufferably smug and looked to be having an allergic reaction to shellfish) it was revealed that the little box of delights is now the UK's favourite gadget. Hardly surprising, given that TV viewing couldn't be more pleasurable if Rupert Murdoch decided to release a limited edition Sky+ with a Fleshlight stuck on the side.

That's not to say that Sky+ is perfect - there's still no way of programming it to drop the ad breaks. And with so many channels to choose from, you're never too far away from a Jersey Shore marathon or the risk of falling into a K-Hole (that's K for Kardashian, not Ketamine - although the effect is the same). Thankfully, someone's already on the case, with an ingenious home-made invention which might ultimately save us all from the blight of reality TV.

TV viewing couldn't be more pleasurable if Rupert Murdoch decided to release a limited edition Sky+ with a Fleshlight stuck on the side.

A clever engineer called Matt Richardson has cobbled together a tiny little gadget that hooks up to his TV and automatically mutes the volume whenever a pointless Z-list celebrity is mentioned. That way, he never has to hear about who's doing the washing up in the Big Brother compound, or whether Paris Hilton will manage to score a new show after being starved of oxygen. Sorry, I meant cancelled by Oxygen.

Aptly named 'Enough Already', Richardson's gizmo uses the Arduino Board (which is a kind of microcontroller and not a Robert Ludlum novel), to decode the subtitling track on any live TV broadcast. The incoming text is then scanned for a set of keywords, such as 'Octomom' or 'Snooki', and each time one of the words is detected, his TV remote automatically mutes the broadcast for 30 seconds. After half a minute of blessed silence, the volume is restored, unless another keyword has been detected.

The effect must be similar to watching TV in the late eighties with my Grandpa. Although he loved Saturday evening telly, accompanied by a plastic tub full of mint humbugs, he had a pathological distaste for light entertainers. He'd sit hunched forward in his arm chair, one crooked finger poised permanently over the mute button, ready to fire the moment Bob Monkhouse honed into view. Suddenly, the room would fall silent, only for Grandpa to fill the void by shouting "Oh bugger off you pointless little man" at the screen. It made me laugh every time. On second thoughts, maybe there are some things that technology will never be able to replace.

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