As we mourn the passing of Eugene J. Polley, it’s worth taking a look back at his seminal invention that changed how we all lounge about watching TV. But when the first commercial wireless remote control appeared way back in 1955, it bared little resemblance to the remotes we use today.
In fact, it didn’t work anything like the clickers we use today either. Instead of an infra-red or RF signal which lets you point your remote in any direction (within reason) to change channels, Zenith’s Flash-Matic functioned as a focused directional torch. Users had to target photocells in every corner of the TV set to turn it on or off, or change channels — which in those days involved turning a tuner dial clockwise or counter-clockwise.
There was no muting, no picture adjustments, not even a volume button. It was downright primitive by today’s standards, but mind-blowingly futuristic for our parents.