R.I.P. Eugene Polley, inventor of the TV remote control


The TV remote truly is one of those rare devices that change the way we watch TV. I'd put it right up there with computers, mobile phones, and rice cookers. Before Polley invented remote, people actually had to get up out of their seats and cross the room to change TV channels. Though it made people lazier and heavier, it was indeed revolutionary. It is one of the biggest contributing factors on how regular TV viewers have evolved into couch potatoes. 

When the TV remote inventor died on Sunday 20th of May at the age of 96, some tributes were interestingly funny.

"Gush all you want about Facebook, Twitter and other recent tech innovations. I'd stack Polley and his TV remote against all of them," wrote David Lazarus at LATimes.com. "After all, which would you be more willing to give up -- Facebook or your remote? ... Thought so."


"Thanks for the belly Eugene," someone wrote on the tech blog Gizmodo's Facebook page. "Just kidding. Great invention."

He died of natural causes Sunday at a suburban Chicago hospital, a spokesman announced on Wednesday.
Zenith’s Flash-Matic Remote Control, Credit: BBC
The former Zenith engineer's green, gun-shaped Flash-Matic remote control was introduced in 1955, five years after the Zenith Radio Corporation unveiled Lazy Bones, a TV remote that was connected to the set with a wire.

By aiming Polley's ray gun-like Flash-Matic very precisely at the receiver, one could pull the red trigger to shoot a beam of light at a photoelectric cell to change the channel and adjust the volume.
A Zenith Space Commander 600 remote control
A much better device was invented just a year later by Robert Adler, a fellow engineer at Zenith, which is now owned by LG Electronics. LG Electronics acquired a controlling share of Zenith in 1995 and eventually the rest in 1999. What a wonderful thought it is that the first modern remote was invented by Zenith on the other hand; the most revolutionary TV remote to date was developed by LG Electronics. Adler's Zenith Space Command used ultrasound instead of light to trigger functions on the TV receiver.


LG Cinema 3D Smart TV 2012 Magic Motion Remote

That remote made a signature "clicking" sound when it struck a bar to emit various frequencies that could be detected by the television set. Polley and Adler were honored in 1997 with an Emmy for their work in pioneering TV remotes.



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2 comment for "R.I.P. Eugene Polley, inventor of the TV remote control"

  1. In older days, we use the flash matic remote which is so popular.Now the TV companies has changed the strategy they developing the laser TV remote

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  2. Nice post! Can’t wait for the next one. Keep stuff like this coming.

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