NOTE: I have decided to sell my Zenith TV remote control collection. Listed here is my type collection of most of the models that Zenith offered as they improved on this new technology. Gary
Channel surfing was born more than six decades ago. The first TV remote control, called the Lazy Bones and was developed in 1950 by Zenith (then known as Zenith Radio Corporation and now a wholly owned subsidiary of LG Electronics USA).
The Lazy Bones used a cable that ran from the TV set to the viewer. A motor in the TV set operated the tuner through the remote control. By pushing buttons on the remote control, viewers rotated the tuner clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on whether they wanted to change the channel to a higher or lower number. The remote control included buttons that turned the TV on and off. Although customers liked having remote control of their television, they complained that people tripped over the unsightly cable that meandered across the living room floor.
Zenith engineer Eugene J. Polley invented the Flash-Matic which represented the industries first wireless TV remote. Introduced in 1955, Flash-Matic operated by means of four photo cells, one in each corner of the TV screen.
The viewer used a highly directional flashlight to activate the four control functions, which turned the picture and sound on and off and changed channels by turning the tuner dial clockwise and counter-clockwise.
Flash-Matic pioneered the concept of wireless TV remote control, although it had some limitations. It was a simple device that had no protection circuits and, if the TV sat in an area in which the sun shone directly on it, the tuner might start rotating. Therefore, the innovation continued with improvements which followed with the “Space Command” series of wireless remotes, of which there were many variations.
The improved Zenith Space Command remote control went into commercial production in 1956. This time, Zenith engineer Robert Adler designed the Space Command based on ultrasonics. Ultrasonic remote controls remained the dominant design for the next 25 years, and, as the name suggests, they worked using ultrasound waves.
The Space Command transmitter used no batteries. Inside the transmitter were four lightweight aluminum rods that emitted high-frequency sounds when struck at one end by a small hammer. Each rod was a different length to create a different sound that controlled a receiver unit built into the television.
The first Space Command units were quite expensive for the consumer, because the device used six vacuum tubes in the receiver units that raised the price of a television by 30%. In the early 1960s, after the invention of the transistor, remote controls decreased in price and in size, as did all electronics. Zenith modified the Space Command remote control using the new benefits of transistor technology (and still using ultrasonics), creating small hand-held and battery-operated remote controls. Over nine million ultrasonic remote controls were sold.
Infrared devices replaced ultrasonic remote controls in the early 1980s.