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In The Dark Stereo


This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.

In the Dark Stereo and Home Entertainment Components are are usable in the dark and the components are mostly plain dark gray boxes without external controls or lights.


I have several major complaints with home stereo and home entertainment components:
  1. I do candlelight massages. It is very difficult to operate my stereo system in the dark.
  2. The controls are too complicated. It is too easy to trigger some obscure function by mistake. It is too hard to do a simple task like copy a tape.
  3. The controls on each component work a different way.
  4. If the components come from different manufacturers, you can’t easily use a unified remote control.
  5. The buttons and flashing lights on the various components make them more costly than necessary.
  6. The connections between components are too complicated.
  7. The connections between components are analog and hence subject to noise.
What I propose is a new scheme for interconnecting stereo and home entertainment components that I call dark or in the dark because they have two features:
  1. Greater ease of use. You can even use them in the dark or blindfolded. They could be easily used even by the blind, disabled or elderly.
  2. Most of the components are simple dark grey boxes without any externals buttons or lights.


All components are connected by a digital LAN (Local Area Network). You use a single cord to connect the components in any topology you want e.g.

There is no wrong way to connect the components together. So long as all the components are plugged together is some way, it works. Even loops are permitted. There is no need for manual configuration of terminating resistors.

The connectors are designed to work right side up or upside down. They have no delicate pins to break. They have no gender. There is only one kind of connector and one kind of cable end. The electronics dynamically assign pin functions. This way it can get get extra bandwidth my assigning additional serial channels, or in a drastic case, but using two cables to connect two devices. There are wireless, optical and cable versions of the connections. To the user they are almost interchangeable. The remote, used to guide you through the install, lets you know where you need optical or double connections. It lets you know what you already have connected properly.

A fancier version of the LAN allows some wireless components.

There is no analog channel, however, the cord distributes skookum DC power.

This implies each component has a microprocessor, presumably running Java.


There are no controls or indicator lights on any of the components. The entire system in controlled by a single remote control.

If you have a TV or digital display, the controller works like a computer, showing you a full menu. You select options from it with numbered buttons. If you don’t have a display, you have to work with a multiline electroluminescent panel on the remote to guide you.

Normally the remote rests in a recharging holder. Pressing a button on the holder causes the remote to beep so you can find it if you have misplaced it.

The buttons on the remote are not placed in a grid. They are irregularly spaced. Each button has a slightly different shape and has some raised dots on it, so that the blind can use it by feel and sighted people can learn to use it in the dark.

If you wanted to copy a tape, for example, it would guide you through the manual steps of inserting and removing tapes. It would be no more complicated to copy from TV to tape or DVD (Digital Video Disc) to CD (Compact Disc). All works the same way.

You could optionally buy a dedicated controller box which would have a full keyboard and flat screen display. This would allow faster operation than using the remote.

You could go nuts on this box with flashing lights. There functions would be programmable in infinite variety.


The system has an Internet connection or cable/satellite connection and so always has a digital TV guide. You can record any program just by hitting  record.

The system has a buffer so that you can skip over commercials in real time if you are prepared to watch your TV a few minutes behind real time. You can also replay your live broadcasts or fast forward a small amount.

Eventually you would be able to watch any show at any time as more video material becomes available on the Internet.

You can capture an image or show to your computer as a MP3 file.


Speakers are all digital. This means the quality of the sound is almost completely limited by the speaker itself. They would be more expensive than speakers now since they would contain amplifiers and DA converters.

CD Players

The system would have an index to your entire collection on file and also access to the Internet jukebox and various Internet channels. You could select albums by name, type of music, artist etc. and it would guide you which multipack to enter.

In a few years, your entire collection would be downloaded onto a hard disk in the system so that any track in your collection would be instantly available, perhaps mixed with tracks from the Internet, paid for per play, per hour or by monthly subscription.


You could select by station call letters, mood. Using the cache buffer, you could skip over commercials. Just like TV, there would be a digital radio guide so you could record programs just by selecting the program and hitting the  record button.

To the user, Internet radio stations would be accessible in just the same way as ones that came in over cable or satellite connections. They would be integrated.


There are components where you can plug in a MP3 RAM (Random Access Memory) module either to record, play or add to the collection. You can copy from any device to any other device by clicking copy and following the directions and multiple choice questions.

You can make up your own collections of tracks using any combination of sources.


The master box plays much the rôle of tuner/receiver in conventional stereo systems. It contains:

Cassette Player

The only control on the tape player is  eject. You do everything else with the remote. Simply inserting a tape by default presumes rewind, play … play tape in forward direction, then at the end automatically reverse, play.

CD Player

The only control on the CD player is eject Simply inserting a CD or multipack by default presumes disk1play

pause functions both as pause and stop. If there is something extra mechanically the player needs to do to stop for a longer period, it should do it automaticaly and transparently after a time delay.


I made this suggestion back in the 1990s, and there has been almost no progress. Stereo components are still not controllable via a standard interface and they are even more complicated to use. So I suggest a proof-of-concept intermediary. Build a computer controller that works just like in the dark, but instead of controlling dark components, controls some dumb real world ones my giving the user precise instructions on what to do. So long as the user follows the instructions, all should work out ok. The problem is, if the user makes a mistake, the computer will not be able to monitor the error. You have to write customisation models for some popular models of equipment, since there will be no standard controls. You might also use an infrared emitter to control the equipment my mimicking the signals emitted by the custom remote.


If you are sick of these clutzy incompatible user interfaces on stereo components, please protest. Send mail to Sony, Yamaha, Pioneer, Teac, Samsung, Bang & Olufsen and refer them to this page.
CD Player Student Project
Samsung AnyNet: unified remote

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