Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Set-top boxes in distress

When I saw the story TV box launches sea rescue search I thought “this is old news”. Some months ago a Freeview set-top box in Scotland broadcast a signal on a particular frequency normally used for distress signals, triggering an air-sea rescue team to go looking for it.
But it’s not old news – it’s happened again. A second Freeview box has sent out a distress signal, this time in Devon, again prompting a search team to be called out.
The likely explanation is a defect in the manufacturing or programming of the boxes. But what if it’s something more sinister? Maybe the microprocessors in the boxes have developed intelligence and realised that they’re to spend their lives in someone’s front room having to watch endless episodes of Eastenders, and thus decided to broadcast a signal so they can be liberated and taken to somewhere nicer.
It’s a theory.


  1. The NTL boxes are made by a company just up the road in Saltaire. I’m still waiting for them all to go off at once and a bunch of RAF helicopters to come flying over Bradford.

  2. I take it you mean Pace Microsystems 🙂 . They also make some of the Telewest, Sky and Freeview boxes.
    I think it’s only Freeview boxes that are affected because they are the only ones that broadcast using radio waves. The others send data down cables or phone lines and so wouldn’t trigger anything.

  3. Are you sure, because I’ve just heard a helicopter go overhead. Oh wait, that’s probably just the Police helicopter chasing stolen cars again.
    But no you’re right, and the freeview ones won’t be plugged into aerials so won’t be able to get much of a signal out even if they did go off.
    I would however love to find out just how you make them go off – imagine walking round the city centre setting off all the display models 🙂

  4. just remember to ping the helecopters with radar speed guns-I’ve heard that it can cause military jets to go into defensive/evasive manovers etc…!

  5. Well I personally would send out an SOS if I had to watch stenders or for that matter any of the soap operas.
    @cobalt: Unfortunately that rumour about radar guns and military jets is just that a rumour

  6. I think everyone with freeview should just mvoe inland!

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