Eugene Polley, inventor of the wireless TV remote control, has died, of natural causes last Sunday in Downers Grove, IL. Without Polley’s invention, which was considered a huge luxury upon its debut in 1955, today’s television watching experience with cable TV or satellite TV would be far different, as his invention was the precursor to today’s modern remotes allowing us to navigate hundreds of channels in seconds; it’s no longer a luxury but a necessity.
The original remote channel changer, the Flash-Matic, debuted in 1955 and used a beam of light directed at sensors in the corners of the set to change channels, as well as turn the picture and/or sound on or off. This was the device created by Polley, who worked for Zenith Electronics from 1935 to 1982. A year later, Robert Adler, another researcher for Zenith, created the Space Command remote, which used sound instead of infrared light to change channels and turn sets on and off. While Adler received much of the credit for the development of the remote control, the devices used today are far more influenced by the initial design of Eugene Polley.
Eugene Polley was a true American success story. After leaving college after two years, he found a job in the stockroom of Zenith Radio Corporation in 1935. From there, he rose through the engineering department and over the years and earned 18 United States Patents for his inventions. Another major contribution through his work was the development of push-button radios for automobiles.
Eugene Polley was preceded in death by his wife Blanche and daughter Joan. He is survived by his son, Eugene, Jr. and a grandson. Couch potatoes around the world should pour one out for the man who made sitting on the couch and flipping through channels on cable television possible with his classic invention.