Exorcising Billy Mays with the TV-B-Gone

Exorcising Billy Mays with the TV-B-Gone

Last week I was stranded in a waiting room. The old magazines didn’t really bug me, but listening to infomercials did. However, what really bothered me the most was when Billy Mays tried to sell me from the beyond the grave. Right then, I made a solemn vow not to endure that sales pitch ever again.

Fortunately for me, Maker Faire Rhode Island was just a few days away. I knew that I’d be able to get my hands on a TV-B-Gone kit and build it at the soldering workshop. Maker Faire RI was a blast, and towards the end of the evening, I settled down with the iron and got to work.

Having made a bunch of kits, I now have an appreciation for what makes a good kit. All the parts were there, the circuit board had lots of notes about what components go where, and how to orient them. Basically, the kit wants to be done correctly. I dumped the parts out of the bag and got right to it. Normally the directions would be found online, but I just read the board and built from its own instructions.

The iron was hot and clean, there were stands to use and several people around me had helpful tips on how to build it. Since this was a new kit to me, I was happy for the help. Jimmie suggested that I orient the IR LEDs so they point forward from the board for better aim.

While I worked, loads of people were coming to and from WaterFire, and most of them wanted to know what the Brain Machine was and how to operate it. I must have set up a couple dozen awake dreamers while I made my kit. The other big question was “What are you making?” After a while, I got the answer down. “This is a TV-B-Gone. It does one thing. It turns TVs off.” People got a kick out of the concept and were curious about how it goes together.

When I got all the parts soldered onto the board, I showed it to Mitch Altman, its inventor. He noticed that the green LED wasn’t blinking when the button was pushed. He took a closer look and noticed that I’d missed a component, a ceramic capacitor. He said it was probably still in the bag or on the table. When I checked the bag, there it was, ready for installation. One of the young kids at the table then helped me confirm that it was working by pointing the device at my digital camera and looking for the blinking light coming from the IR LEDs. We can’t see that part of the spectrum, but our cameras can. When he saw that my zombie TV killer was fully functional, he awarded me the Learn To Solder merit badge. I totally wasn’t expecting the badge, so it was a nice surprise.

So now I’m ready for action, armed with a fully-functioning TV-B-Gone. I’ve tested it out on all the TVs in my house (and a few that, ummm, aren’t in my house). I am still hunting down the ghost of Billy Mays. He’s out there, and now I know what to do when I hear his high-pitched Zombie squeal, calling to me from the waiting room.

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