The name Eugene Polley might not be one that you’re overly familiar with, but I’m almost positive that you’ve used his invention several times over the course of your life. Polley, a Zenith employee for nearly 47 years, is credited with creating the world’s very first wireless television remote control. Yes, dear readers, there was once a point in American history when you had to pull yourself off the couch in order to change channels. Perish the thought.
Polley, a resident of Lombard, Illinois, invented the Flash-Matic in 1955, which used a beam of light to manipulate photo cells in the television. This allowed users to change channels, mute the volume, and turn the set on and off, all without leaving the comforts of their couch or chair. However, because the contraption relied on light to do its job, the device wasn’t exactly flawless. Over the years, the control was altered to make use of sonic and radio frequencies. Later, infrared technology was introduced, effectively transforming entire generations into lazy individuals who couldn’t be bothered to manually adjust their sets.
In 1955, one of the lowest Zenith sets cost roughly $150, and that was without the remote. Those who were interested in owning a television set with a wireless control would have to drop at least $250 to bring one home. Given that the average weekly income in that year was $76, those sets were thought to be a little pricey.
To honor the man’s contribution to the modern age, Polley, along with Zenith engineer Robert Adler, received an Emmy for their collective work in 1997. As they should. Can you imagine life without remote controls? It’s hard to do, especially if you were born after the gadget became commonplace. Now you have universal remotes that can operate everything from your television to your washer to your home security system.
Not surprisingly, folks on Twitter seem to appreciate Polley’s invention and the impact it’s had on society. Have a look at some of their comments below. And when you have a second to spare, give Mr. Polley and his glorious invention a moment of silence. After all, your inherent laziness should be thanking him on a daily basis.
To learn more about Eugene Polley, pay a visit to Famous Dead.
Photograph courtesy of Advertising Archive/Everett Collection
Eugene Polley, inventor of the TV remote dies at 96. After 3 days his body was found underneath the couch cushions.
Rest In Peace: Eugene Polley passed away yesterday at 96. Gene earned 18 patents, mainly in the TV field…including the wireless TV remote!