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The official blog of Abt Electronics & Appliances

Inventor of the remote, Eugene Polley, dies at 96

In 1955 if you wanted to switch from Howdy Doody to Bozo The Clown you had to get off the couch to reach the knob and change the channel. It was uphill, both ways, and covered in snow (or something like that). That was until a man by the name of Eugene Polley had a dream. He was tired of seeing crumbs fall to the floor, and recliner “sweet spots” being abandoned just to switch the channel. His dream turned into reality when he gave us “Flash-Matic Tuning,” the first remote control.

Mr. Polley passed away Sunday in a suburban Chicago hospital. During his 47-year career as an engineer, Polley earned 18 U.S. patents, most notably, the first television remote control. The original Flash-Matic Tuning device was manufactured by Zenith and featured a ray gun looking device that beamed a light at photo cells in the corners of the television screen. Each corner activated a different function, turning the picture and sound on and off, and changing the channels.

An original ad (above) claims “you can also shut off long, annoying commercials while the picture remains on the screen,” I would like to thank Mr. Polley for letting me shut off the long, annoying Kardashians while leaving Kim on the screen.

“He was a proud owner of a flat-screen TV and modern remote,” said John Taylor, Zenith Electronics spokesperson “He always kept his original remote control with him.” Polley set the pace for innovators to think beyond the dial and without him, who knows where we would be today.

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