TV Remotes’ Long, Interesting History

Replacement lg remote controls

Believe it or not, the first remote controls for TV were actually wired! That’s right. Before your Samsung remote control, there was the Lazy-Bone, which was made by the Zenith Radio Corporation in 1950. The only things that Lazy Bone remote controls for TV could do was turn the television off and on, and change its channels. However, many consumers didn’t like it because its bulky wire would trip everyone.

So, in 1955 Eugene Polley invented the wireless Flash-matic remote. This kind of remote controls for TV used a directional flashlight to send a signal to one of the four photocells in each of the TV’s corners. This allowed the Flash-matic to turn the set on or off, and turn the channel. Although it was an improvement over the Lazy-Bone, these remote controls for TV couldn’t function properly on sunny days, because the sunlight would cause the channels to change randomly!

One year later, a new remote was designed and became the standard for decades. Called the “Zenith Space Command,” it used ultra-sonics to change channels, volumes, and turn the TV on and off. What’s most interesting about this remote is that it didn’t need batteries. Instead, it had aluminum rods of varying length that when struck by the buttons would emit high frequency tones, signaling the TV to do something.

Space Command remote controls for TV sold over 9 million units over the course of its 25 year reign. That is, until an infrared, sharp remote control, whose design was much more keen than its predecessors, supplanted it in the early 1980s. These infrared devices are the very same ones that we use nowadays to quickly change the channel so we don’t miss out on reality TV.

It’s interesting to think that television remote controls have had to come all this way before you could have a piece of equipment like your Sony remote control. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.