Eugene Polley, Inventor Of The Wireless Remote, Gone At 96

By Mack Rawden 2012-05-22 18:31:11
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Almost sixty years ago, a nice man living in Illinois had a Eureka moment. Working for Zenith Electronics, he figured out how to use photo cells and a flashlight-like device to change the television wirelessly. The brilliant invention was marketed as the Flash-Matic, and while it had a whole lot less buttons than we have today, it proved so popular it fundamentally changed the way people watched television. Avoiding commercials was suddenly easy. To compensate, networks had to move them in the middle of programs rather than in between different programs, and the long battle to hold clicker-happy consumers for as long as possible began.

According to Gizmodo, Eugene Polley died in an Illinois hospital today from natural causes at the age of ninety-six. During his life, he married, had children, worked on radar advancement in World War II and played around with a lot of pieces of technology, but he will always be fondly remembered for allowing all of us to be as lazy as we want. Later engineers improved greatly on his original invention, but it was his Flash-Matic that proved it was possible.

When you stop and think about it, there have been few inventions in the last century that have become more popular more quickly than Polley’s wireless remote. Before the Flash-Matic, everyone either got up to change the channel, didn’t change the channel or had a long device connected to the television. Less than six decades later, every single person with a television has a remote control. The thought of buying a television without a remote control is laughable. In fact, it sounds like the most arduous annoyance in the entire world. Would it even be worth having a TV without a remote? I suspect it would, but we'd all hate it.

So, here’s to Eugene Polley. Later tonight when I plant my ass on the couch and watch several channels without standing up, I will think of him and smile.
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