Remote Control Trivia

• Although TV’s weren’t invented yet, Nikola Tesla described and patented a remote control for TV sets as far back as 1893. U.S. Patent 613809.

• Remote control technology was first developed for military use. The Germans used remote controls for motor boats during WWI. In the late 1940’s the first non-military uses for remote controls appeared, the first was a garage door opener.

• The Zenith Radio Corporation created the very first television remote control in 1950 and called it the “Lazy Bone.” The Lazy Bone could turn a television on and off, and change channels. It was not a wireless however. The Lazy Bone remote control was attached to the television by cable. It turned out that consumers did not like the cable because they kept tripping over it.

• The first wireless TV remote control was created in 1955 by Zenith engineer, Eugene Polley. It was named the “Flash-matic”. It operated by means of four photocells which were in each corner of the TV screen. It was really nothing more then a flash light which gave the user problems on sunny days. The functions would automatically change if sunlight would hit one of the corners.

Who says it’s not rocket science. The improved version of the Fladh-matic was called the “Zenith Space Command”. Produced by Doctor Robert Adler it went into production in 1956 and worked via ultrasound waves. Ultrasonic remote technology led the way for the next quarter of a century. The Space Command transmitter had no need for batteries. Inside the transmitter were four aluminum rods that emitted high-frequency sounds when struck at one end. Each rod was a different wave length to create a different sound which was received by a different control in the TV.

• In the early 1960s, after the invention of the transistor, remote controls came down in price, and in size, as did all electronics. Zenith modified the Space Command remote control with the benefits of transistor technology (and still using ultrasonics) created small hand-held and battery-operated remote controls.