Saturday, November 26, 2016

Remote Control Revolution

1955: Eugene J. Polley invented the first wireless TV remote control:  
The Flash-Matic.


Mr. Polley with his Flash-Matic.

This ray-gun remote control came on the market just as television sets were becoming popular in North American households.

Mr. Polley's invention wasn't the first TV remote control. In 1950, Zenith released the Lazy Bones, a device tethered to the television by a long cord. The Lazy Bones allowed viewers to change channels and turn the set on and off from their seats, but the cord proved dangerous and inelegant.

The Flash-Matic used a light beam to send signals to four receptors in the corners of the TV set. The top corners received signals to change channels; the bottom corners received signals to mute or turn off the set.



The Flash-Matic was not without problems. People couldn't remember which corner of the screen controlled what. And worse...the light sensors sometimes mistook changes in light, including sunsets and ill-placed floor lamps, for commands. 

“Absolutely harmless to humans!” Flash-Matic advertisements promised. “You can even shut off annoying commercials while the picture remains on the screen!”



Looking back on his invention, Mr. Polley had mixed emotions...

It makes me think maybe my life wasn’t wasted. Maybe I did something for humanity — like the guy who invented the flush toilet.

Everything has to be done remotely now or forget it. Nobody wants to get off their fat and flabby to control these electronic devices.

2016: The Mistress test-drives the Flash-Matic and discovers she can make cocktails magically appear...



Anyone care to join me?

22 comments:

  1. Cool find.

    I recall another techno-marvel from the mid-1950s. It was a three-color film overlay placed on a black-and-white TV to simulate color TV! Our neighbors had one and they were the envy of the trailer park!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are Britney Spears, and I claim my prize. Jx

      Delete
    2. LX: It’s true! For those folks desperate to view TV in colour, those tinted, plastic overlays were the answer, even if the result wasn’t effective.

      It wasn’t until the 1970s that colour TV sets became affordable.

      And in the late 1940s and early 1950s when picture tube sizes were tiny, you could buy a magnifying lens to place over your screen.

      JON: You mean LX hasn’t won yet?

      Delete
  2. Mr Polley looks like a camply evil (or evilly camp) 1960s Batman villain in that first photo. Where are Adam West and Burt Ward?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MR. DeVICE: Adam West and Burt Ward wouldn’t arrive on the scene until 1966, a decade after Mr. Polley’s invention hit the market.

      Delete
  3. Will you flash at me, please ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed, I too need turning over.
      Sx

      Delete
    2. MAGO & MISS SCARLET: All phasers set.

      Delete
  4. "their fat and flabbys...." Look who's talking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. PEENEE: I’ll have you know mine is quite toned.

      Thanks to the remote control, I was able to find an infomercial and order a “Buns of Steel” VHS.

      Delete
  5. who would've thought, "don't tase me bro,"
    was first uttered by a zenith console.

    ReplyDelete
  6. LOL! Now I'm laughing because I remember the first remote control at our house: ME!
    xoxoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SAVANNAH: Unlike modern remote controls, your batteries never ran down.

      Delete
  7. A billiard cue placed strategically beside the chair worked in our house once the pushbutton chanel changers came into vogue!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. PRINNY: That’s Australian ingenuity.

      Delete
  8. My current tv has no control buttons on it at all. It relies exclusively on the remote for all operations. My biggest fear is misplacing the remote and then having no other way to turn on the tv!

    My remote doesn't make cocktails but my alcohol shelf is just two steps away from the tv viewing area...close enough if I need it, but just far enough out of reach to keep me from becoming a slovenly lush every time I sit down to watch tv.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EROS: You’ll never lose this remote contol.

      Delete
  9. Flash-Zap- have I told you (today) how much I love your Prime Minister!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. JIMMY: You mean this guy?

      Unfortunately, the honeymoon may be over.

      Delete
  10. I am always good for a cock and tail.

    **places snickering kisses on Mistress feet as is proper**

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DAMIEN: Just one of each? How restrained of you.

      Delete