You just sat down to watch a DVD. Whoops. The remote you grabbed operates your VCR. So you get the DVD remote and sink into your easy chair. Whoops. You forgot to pick up the remote that turns on your TV.

A half minute later, you're finally ready to watch that DVD. But wouldn't it have been nice if just one remote handled all three functions?

It is possible. Two words to remember are "universal remote." If you shop in a store that sells TVs, VCRs and DVD players, chances are it also carries universal remotes. You can also buy them from companies that install home theater systems.

Remotes vary widely. Some simply operate your TV, VCR and DVD by pushing buttons. Others let you play games, listen to CDs or activate a special sound system. Fancier models have mini TV screens that briefly describe various activities like "Watch TV" and "Play DVD." You touch the screen to activate.

Yet another, more expensive model can shoot a signal through wood. "This is extremely useful when the equipment is kept behind a closed cabinet," says Casey Kamps, owner of home theater firm CLK Inc. of Grants Pass.

At the very high end is one that's a computer as well as a remote. It lets you surf the Internet and check your email as well as operate your home theater system, security system, audio and lighting systems, says Brian Pahl of Rogue Technology Solutions of Medford.

You may not even have to buy a universal remote. Most newer TV remotes can be programmed to run your VCR and DVD player as well, says Rick Burditt, home theater and appliances specialist at Larson's Home Furnishings in Medford.

"Sit down, read your manual and follow the instructions," he encourages people. "A lot of times that is enough." Instruction booklets list code numbers for most of the different makes of TV, VCR and DVD. You may be able to do it yourself.

If you are buying a new TV and DVD player at the same time, consider getting the identical brand, Burditt suggests. It's likely that your TV remote will operate both and also the VCR regardless of brand.

But if you just can't make the remote do what you want, it's time to get some expert help.

There are a couple of ways to go:

-  Call around to stores that sell TVs, VCRs and DVD players. Ask them, "If I buy from you, will the sales assistant help me program my remote?" Some will charge a fee. Others may be willing to offer some brief help at your home at no extra charge.

-  Seek the help of a home theater professional, usually found in the Yellow Pages. Going this route will probably be more expensive, but if the project you have in mind is complicated, it may be a prudent choice.

What will all this cost?

You can buy a simple universal remote, one that operates your TV, VCR and DVD player, for as little as $12 and try to program it yourself.

Want something better? Figure on $40 or more. Models that can send a signal into the cabinet go from $80 to $400. Those with mini TV screens start at $130. Want that fancy model that lets you surf the Internet and send email that Pahl mentioned? It'll run you $4,000.

If you need to hire someone to program your remote, figure on $130 and up. But, if you buy a new TV or DVD player at the same time you get the remote, you may be able to negotiate an overall lower price.

Whether you do it yourself or hire it done, there's a lot of convenience in the power of one.