1. Will the Sonic Screwdriver work with my equipment?
The Sonic Screwdriver is compatible with almost all makes of home audio-visual equipment around the world, such as TVs, DVD players, hi-fis and set-top boxes.
Please note that the Sonic Screwdriver only works with infrared (IR) remote controls, not radio-frequency (RF) remotes, and that the Sonic Screwdriver is not compatible with Bang & Olufsen equipment.
2. Can the Sonic Screwdriver perform all functions of my remote control?
No, not really, the Sonic Screwdriver was not designed to be a replacement remote control. The Sonic Screwdriver can only learn a limited number of remote control codes. It has 13 gestures and three memory banks. A single remote control code (from any conventional remote control) can be programmed on to any one of the gestures in any one of the three memory banks. This means that the Sonic Screwdriver can store and play back up to 39 remote control codes.
Nevertheless, the Sonic Screwdriverís 39 remote control codes are plenty for you to have fun controlling several different devices around the home.
3. Is the Sonic Screwdriver easy to use?
Like any alien technology, it takes a bit of practice to master the Sonic Screwdriver. Some people seem to be natural Time Lords and can control their earthly devices straight away with the Sonic Screwdriver, but for most people, a little practice is required to get the hang of the different movement gestures.
In general the gestures are pretty straightforward, only requiring short, precise movements to perform, but the Sonic Screwdriver is not recommended as a remote control for the elderly or infirm.
4. Can I use the Sonic Screwdriver if I have lost my original remote?
No, the Sonic Screwdriver is a learning remote and you have to program it with remote control codes from your original remote controls.
5. What batteries does the Sonic Screwdriver use?
The Tenth Doctorís Sonic Screwdriver does not need batteries as it has its own in-built rechargeable power cell. The Sonic Screwdriver will, however, need recharging and a micro-USB charging cable is supplied for this purpose, which must be plugged into a suitable 5V power supply such as a phone charger or computer USB socket. Recharging takes about 2 hours and the Sonic Screwdriver can be used while it is plugged in to the charging cable.
6. Does the Sonic Screwdriver extend and retract?
Yes, simply push on the Slider Pad to extend the Sonic Screwdriver and pull back on the pad to retract the Sonic Screwdriver. The Sonic Screwdriver may be used in any mode, extended or retracted.
7. Is the Sonic Screwdriver an exact screen-accurate replica?
For most users, the answer is a definite "yes". We have taken great care to make this Sonic Screwdriver as accurate as possible to the actual hero prop that David Tennant used on screen. This has included taking 3D laser scans of the original prop (kindly loaned to us by David Tennant), accurately tracing the exact craquelure finish on the main body and using machined aluminum for the metal parts.
However, we have had to make some slight detail changes in order to make it possible to manufacture the Sonic Screwdriver and make it affordable for the widest possible number of fans. Sharp-eyed Tenth Doctor experts might notice the following tiny differences:
- Emitter dome.
The Sonic Screwdriver URCís light-up blue tip is made from a blue, self-colored, injection molded acrylic. The prop emitter dome was made in clear acrylic painted blue on the inside. Although the color is a close match to the prop, during its time on screen, the propís paint degraded and by the end of filming, had a very patchy appearance.
- Emitter head.
The Sonic Screwdriver URCís emitter head has been made by a multi-stage process where aerospace grade aluminum is first extruded to create the longitudinal shapes and then machined by a computer controlled lathe and milling machine to create the iconic cage shape. The original prop was machined by hand, resulting in some slight asymmetry. Also due to heavy use, the original propís emitter head has acquired accidental damage in the form of nicks and scratches.
- Clear tube.
The Sonic Screwdriver URCís clear tube is made from injection molded polycarbonate. The injection molding process requires that the tubeís inner core has a slight taper and a perfectly smooth surface, so that the part can be removed from the mold during the manufacturing process. The original propís tube was made by drilling a hole through the middle of a rod of acrylic, resulting in a slightly distressed inner surface. Residual stresses in micro-cracks on that surface have, over time, eventually led to larger visible cracks and even small voids, giving the surface a crazed, translucent look.
- Main body.
The original propís main body was turned from aluminum and the craquelure effect was created using multiple layers of paint with different drying rates. As such, this process is completely random and there is no way to replicate it using paint, as each surface pattern would be unique. In order to get as close as possible to the original craquelure effect, the original propís surface texture was painstakingly copied, line by line, and engraved on the inside of the injection mold tool used to create the Sonic Screwdriver URCís main body in an engineering grade ABS. While we have carefully copied the surface texture of the original prop, due to the limitations of the injection molding process and the method of creating a pattern on the inside of a mold, there are slight differences between the Sonic Screwdriver URC and the original prop's surface finish.
The main body of David Tennantís screen-used prop is attached to the Sonic Screwdriver structure by three screws. On the original prop, these are painted to match the main body color. For the Sonic Screwdriver URC, these screws are not necessary and so have been omitted from the design.
In the original prop there is a small aluminum block at the front end of the slider track which is painted with the craquelure effect. To help with assembly and to fix the orientation of the main body with respect to the extending portion, in the Sonic Screwdriver URC this block is not a separate piece, but is part of the lower castellated ring and is not painted.
Due to internal construction differences, the slider track on the Sonic Screwdriver URC is slightly shorter than the track on the real prop.
The Sonic Screwdriver URCís slider pad button incorporates a light pipe so that it can indicate charge status. On the original prop, the button does not light up.
- End cap.
The original propís end cap is turned on a lathe and is glued into position. The Sonic Screwdriver URCís removable end cap is molded, houses a strong neodymium magnet and also conceals the USB charging socket.
The original prop does not produce sound. The sounds that you hear when the Tenth Doctor is using the Sonic Screwdriver in the TV show are sound effects, added after the filming has finished in the post-production stage.
The Sonic Screwdriver URC comes with a miniature speaker and a library of sounds including the classic noise of the Tenth Doctorís Sonic Screwdriver, other Sonic Screwdriver sounds, spoken directions and contextual prompts.
8. Having trouble with the rotation gestures?
A common problem with the rotation gestures is turning the Sonic Screwdriver too fast, or drawing circles in the air. For the rotation gestures, you need to rotate the Sonic Screwdriver very slowly and smoothly one quarter-turn, keeping the tip steady, as if you were turning a volume knob.
Once you've gone just over a quarter-turn, the Sonic Screwdriver will register the rotation and go into fine-resolution rotation mode, where it will register an event every 15 degrees - this allows you to control the volume with only small movements of your wrist.
9. Trouble with the flick gestures?
A common problem with the flick gestures is waving the Sonic Screwdriver around too vigorously or doing the opposite gesture at the beginning of your intended gesture. If you're having difficulty with the flick gestures, stop and hold the Sonic Screwdriver steady and horizontal for a couple of seconds before trying again.
A short, positive flick of the wrist is all that is needed, where the tip of the Sonic Screwdriver only moves a few centimeters (inches). Start the movement pointing slightly away from the device you are controlling and finish the gesture so the Sonic Screwdriver is pointing at the device.
10. Trouble with the tap gestures?
The Sonic Screwdriver should be held quite steady during the tap gestures. To get started with these gestures, you might find it easiest to hold the Sonic Screwdriver in one hand while tapping it on the aluminum ring just in front of the slider pad with one or two fingers of the other hand while the Sonic is extended.
If you want to use your index finger to do a tap, remember that the Sonic Screwdriver always knows which way is up so if you quickly rotate the Sonic Screwdriver so that your index finger is at the side on underneath the Sonic Screwdriver and then tap it, it will recognize this as a tap on the side or the bottom.
11. Having difficulty programming your Sonic Screwdriver?
If you are having trouble programming your Sonic Screwdriver, check the manual to make sure that you are entering programming mode correctly. To do this press the Slider Pad button three times quickly, holding the third press until the Sonic Screwdriver tells you that it is in programming mode. If you can already get into programming mode but are having difficulty learning codes from your remote, please check the following:
- Check that the batteries in your original remote control are fresh.
Occasionally weak or used-up batteries in the original remote control might still have enough power in for it to work with the device it is controlling, but not enough to program the Sonic Screwdriver.
- Try varying the distance between the tip of the Sonic Screwdriver and the front of your remote during learning.
Normally about 3 cm (1.5Ē) works best, but also try at around 5cm (2Ē) or 1 cm (0.5Ē).
- Try varying the duration of the button press on your original remote control.
Only a very short press is usually required. If you think you might be pressing the button for too long then reduce the press time. In some cases increasing the press time slightly up to about 0.5 seconds can help.
- Check that your original remote isnít an radio frequency remote control.
The Sonic Screwdriver is designed to work with almost all infrared remote controls but it will not work with radio frequency (RF) remotes. If your remote control works through walls (i.e. from another room), or can work even if the device you are controlling is hidden inside a cupboard or behind some furniture, then it is likely that it is an RF remote control. To test if your original remote control is RF, block the front of the remote with a cushion while trying to control the device it is used with. If it can still control it, then it is an RF remote control and the Sonic Screwdriver will not be able to learn its remote control codes.
- Check that your cable or satellite box isnít switched to RF remote control mode.
Some cable or satellite set-top boxes are able to be controlled by either infrared (IR) or radio frequency (RF). In this case make sure that your set-top box is switched to IR remote control.
12. The Sonic Screwdriver can change channel on my TV once, but repeated commands don't seem to work
There are a few TVs (and other devices) which use infra-red (IR) "toggle codes" - these alternate between two different codes each time you press the button on your normal remote control. This is intended to avoid multiple commands being executed accidentally if the IR beam is broken during transmission (for example by the cat or another person walking between the remote control and the TV).
So, the first time you press the "channel up" button (for example, though this may also applies to other buttons), it will send one IR code (let's call it "code A", which will repeat for as long as you hold the button down), but the next time you press the same button, it will send a second IR code (B). On the third press, you'll be back to the first code A again, and so on. The TV will action a channel change when it sees code A, but it won't change the channel again if another code A is received consecutively, but is instead waiting to receive code B before it'll change channel in the same direction.
The Sonic Screwdriver can only learn the IR code it sees when the button is pressed once during Programming Mode, which will be either code A or code B. So, repeated gestures will send the same IR code each time, and that causes the problem you're experiencing.
Fortunately, there is a work-around:
An undocumented feature of the Sonic Screwdriver is that you can actually learn more than one remote control button onto each gesture (as a kind of macro) if you press two buttons in quick succession whilst the Sonic Screwdriver is glowing steadily green while in Programming Mode waiting to learn a code. This very useful feature can help you deal with toggle codes by learning a dummy code after each of the original toggle codes, in the following way:
While the Sonic Screwdriverís tip is glowing green and it is waiting for a code, first press the button on the original remote that you want to use (e.g. channel up) and then quickly press another button on the original remote control which has no effect (e.g. the yellow button on most TV remotes does nothing most of the time), then the Sonic Screwdriver will learn two IR codes (e.g A,X) onto that gesture.
Now when you perform repeated gestures for channel up (e.g. flick upwards), the TV will receive code A (to change the channel up), then code X (which will do nothing but make it forget that it had just received code A), then the next code A (on the next flick upwards) should cause the channel to change again as expected. It might take you a couple of attempts to get the timing right for learning the "macro" of two buttons onto each gesture, but it's not too difficult once you get the hang of it.
13. Need a long press to turn on the TV?
There are a few TVs (and other devices) which require a long button press to turn them on or off. The Sonic Screwdriver can replicate a long button press by use of its Slider Pad button. To do a long button press, double press the Slider Pad button, holding the button down for the second press.
There are three memory banks and one long button press code may be stored on the Sonic Screwdriverís double button press gesture in each memory bank.
14. Problems with Windows Media Center?
If you find that Windows Media Center will only respond once to a given command from the Sonic Screwdriver and that repeated commands don't work, please take a look at the explanation and solution given here:
Unfortunately their link to Autonomic Home is out-of-date - the IR Debounce Utility file they refer to can be downloaded from here:
15. Is it possible to over-write the learned IR codes?
Yes, any code may be over-written with a new code at any time by the normal programming procedure.
16. Will it forget the programmed IR codes if I let the battery completely run down, or forget to charge the Sonic Screwdriver?
No, the IR codes are not erased when the Sonic Screwdriver runs out of charge. The Sonic Screwdriver will retain the remote control codes it has learned even if it is not charged for a long period. However, to maintain the condition of the battery, it is recommended that the Sonic Screwdriver be charged at least once every six months.
17. Is there a way to completely reset the Sonic Screwdriver?
Yes, you can perform a factory reset to erase all learned infra-red (IR) codes by pressing the button quickly 10 times when the Sonic Screwdriver is in Programming Mode. CAUTION: this action cannot be undone.