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Inventor of the TV Remote Control Dies

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the rest-in-peace dept.

Television 113

An anonymous reader writes "Yes, kids, you used to have to walk across the room to change the TV channel. That changed with the introduction of the 'Flash-Matic,' a revolutionary device that was 'Absolutely harmless to humans!' and could 'even shut off annoying commercials while the picture remains on the screen.' Eugene Polley, inventor of the now ubiquitous TV remote-control died Sunday of natural causes at age 96. In 1996 Polley received an Emmy for his invention, but during his 47-year career, he was awarded numerous patents and worked on projects ranging from advances in radar to push-button car radios."

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Duplicate idea (-1, Troll)

SadBob (2645421) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082223)

While ignoring the fact that this is again just another one of those things that were invented to help Americans remain fat and lazy (seriously, can't even get up to change a tv channel?), this device was quite much copied from Nokia's symbian phones [psiloc.com] .

Even back in the 90's you could control your TV with your Symbian based phone, as they had infrared. I used to do that. It was fun to shut down TV in school classes too. I don't see a need for duplicate device, just use your phone.

Re:Duplicate idea (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40082245)

Not sure if dumb or troll...

Re:Duplicate idea (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40082267)

but either way, it was penned by a fairly disappointing example of a person

Re:Duplicate idea (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082309)

better, fucking spammer

Ok before anyone else has a retard moment, the device in the article was introduced in 1956, and while it was very possible to have a radio tune into a special station that patched into the phone network ... it required you to be a licensed ham radio operator, it was the size of a half cinderblock, and it was only half duplex

Re:Duplicate idea (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40082311)

I think the '1996' in the article threw him off; actually this should be about the inventor of the wireless remote control, it's from 1955 (the one with the wire was from 1950 and was called the Zenith 'Lazy Bones')

Re:Triplicate idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40084561)

I also invented one. It's called a "long stick" or a pole that you bash the TV with.

Re:Triplicate idea (1)

CozmicCharlie (1471823) | about 2 years ago | (#40088267)

My dad invented one in 1962 called "Chuck"... as in "Chuck, get up and change the channel." "Chuck, get up and turn the volume down." "Chuck, get up and turn the God-damned boob-tube off and go out side!" (Yes, my dad calls it a "boob-tube" to this day... His favorite phrase back then was "Garbage in, garbage out!")

Re:Duplicate idea (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#40087291)

> Yes, kids, you used to have to walk across the room...

No, you didn't. You took a cushion off the sofa and laid on the floor next to the TV all night.

Re:Duplicate idea (5, Informative)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082263)

> this device was quite much copied from Nokia's symbian phones

Even though we have remote controls today, and clicking on the article link no longer requires you to get your ass out of your chair, you can still make a fool of yourself by being too lazy to read it and discover that the first remote control was invented in 1955, long before there was Symbian, or mobile phones.

Re:Duplicate idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40082303)

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This immediately set alarm bells off in my head. "How could this happen? My anti-virus is supposed to be second to none!" Faced with this harsh reality, I decided to take it to a PC repair shop for repair. They gladly accepted the job, told me it'd be fixed in a few days, and sent me off with a smile.

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I've tried MyCleanPC!!! Anal Sex!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40082351)

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That's right, if you want to break the law and have access to things that are not allowed

Re:I've tried MyCleanPC!!! Anal Sex!!! (1)

virgnarus (1949790) | about 2 years ago | (#40083043)

This is one of those times where I actually felt better reading the bot's spam more than the reply it provoked.

Re:Duplicate idea (5, Interesting)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082515)

Actually, the first remote control was invented by Tesla in 1898 (U.S. Patent 613,809). He used it to remotely flash lights on a boat, amazing an audience. Eugene Polley specialized it to "for a TV". Sort of like many modern inventions consist of an earlier idea + "on the internet". (OK maybe not that simple but I thought I'd toss it in for a good troll...)

Re:Duplicate idea (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40082989)

And it's always worth pointing out that Tesla was the greatest geek that ever lived [theoatmeal.com] .

Re:Duplicate idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40085707)

he was gay? "Geek" = "nerd" + "gay"...

Re:Duplicate idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40083573)

Sort of like many modern inventions consist of an earlier idea + "on the internet". (OK maybe not that simple but I thought I'd toss it in for a good troll...)

You're behind the times... that's all done. Now it's the earlier idea, on the internet, *on a mobile device* (so you throw some location-based interactive stuff in with it). Ka-ching!

Re:Duplicate idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40083593)

People are afraid of new things. You should have just taken an existing
product and put a clock on it or something.
-- Homer, on the baby translator, "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?"

Re:Duplicate idea (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 2 years ago | (#40084079)

> this device was quite much copied from Nokia's symbian phones

Even though we have remote controls today, and clicking on the article link no longer requires you to get your ass out of your chair, you can still make a fool of yourself by being too lazy to read it and discover that the first remote control was invented in 1955, long before there was Symbian, or mobile phones.

He must be of the same intellectual quality as the persons that, back during mid '90-ies, carried a remote and mocked speaking on a mobile in an attempt to fool others into believing they owned one (granted, some early Ericsson [ytimg.com] models have had some resemblance).

Re:Duplicate idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40082275)

Take your trolling to reddit.

Re:Duplicate idea (1)

sleiper (1772326) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082277)

I wish I hadn't used all my mod points this afternoon...

Re:Duplicate idea (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 2 years ago | (#40082965)

Even back in the 90's

Contrary to your understanding, time didn't begin only 20 years ago. It's been going a lot longer than that. For example, I've heard it said there was once a "1950s".

Re:Duplicate idea (1)

similar_name (1164087) | about 2 years ago | (#40083205)

Contrary to your understanding, time didn't begin only 20 years ago. It's been going a lot longer than that. For example, I've heard it said there was once a "1950s".

By my recollection time started some time in the late 1970s. You can not prove to me that anything existed before this. I therefore demand that you teach my alternate theory of time starting somewhere between 1975-1980 alongside this '1950s theory' of yours.

Re:Duplicate idea (1)

fbobraga (1612783) | about 2 years ago | (#40085741)

Good one - I wish I had mod points

Re:Duplicate idea (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | about 2 years ago | (#40084289)

For example, I've heard it said there was once a "1950s".

Oh, there was, I assure you. I remember them very well, TYVM. NOW GET OF MY LAWN, YOU YOUNG WHIPPERSNAPPER!

Re:Duplicate idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40084177)

Idiot. Everyone knows APPLE invented the remote control.

Re:Duplicate idea (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 2 years ago | (#40084765)

It's funny see if the release of iTV makes people spin it "Apple was the one to invent HD digital television" or something, just like some people have claimed Apple to have invented the smartphone. ;)

Do you think they've tried turning his batteries (5, Funny)

duguk (589689) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082255)

Do you think they've tried turning his batteries round and smacking him against the coffee table?

Re:Do you think they've tried turning his batterie (5, Funny)

Bigby (659157) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082385)

To honor him, every channel should show him at the same time for 5 minutes straight. People will start using their remotes to change the channel, only to get nowhere. Only then will they truly understand the importance of the remote control.

Re:Do you think they've tried turning his batterie (5, Funny)

mykepredko (40154) | about 2 years ago | (#40082685)

Tabatha Southey (Toronto Globe and Mail Columnist) suggests that it would be most appropriate for Mr. Polley to be buried under some couch cushions.

RIP and thank you for relieving the few calories of energy it took to get our fat asses up and over to the TV to change the channel.

myke

Re:Do you think they've tried turning his batterie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40082715)

Show a little respect! I think we should all have 60 seconds of -mute- in his name.

Re:Do you think they've tried turning his batterie (1)

lewko (195646) | about 2 years ago | (#40085081)

Once upon a time someone would have had to walk across the hospital room to pull the plug. Now....

Re:Do you think they've tried turning his batterie (1)

Megane (129182) | about 2 years ago | (#40085427)

He doesn't use batteries, you insensitive clod! But be careful about running a vacuum cleaner near his grave or he'll start flipping over randomly. (If you're not old enough to know about clicker remotes and vacuum cleaners, GET OFF MY LAWN!)

Re:Do you think they've tried turning his batterie (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | about 2 years ago | (#40087933)

I'm old enough to remember wired remote controls, but I never ran into the vacuum problem. Is that good enough?

Re:Do you think they've tried turning his batterie (1)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#40088771)

I don't have any trouble with TV remotes, but strangely enough a remote switchbox I bought just last year so that I could operate a plug-in lamp from across the room seems to turn off whenever I vacuum in that room.

Uh oh (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40082305)

In 1996 Polley received an Emmy for his invention, but during his 47-year career, he was awarded numerous patents...

You hit one of Slashdot's trigger words. Expect a long and boring patent debate that accomplishes nothing to follow.

Re:Uh oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40085505)

"patent", not "software patent"...

in honor of Eugene Polley (3)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082317)

I will get up and change the channel the old fashioned way for the rest of the day, when i was a kid there were no remote controls, my father's TV had two big giant channel knobs on it, the first one was VHF 2 thru 13 and a "U" between the 2 and the 13 and to get UHF you put the first knob on the "U" and then it activated the second channel knob for UHF channels

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (4, Funny)

dccase (56453) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082355)

I want a button for GET OFF MY LAWN!!

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40082433)

Take cover at the firing position.
Insert plug of wire directly into M57 Firing Device, with the "Safety" in the "On" position.
Rotate the "Safety" to the "Off" position.

Depress the handle (squeeze the device) sharply. This will send an electrical current to the blasting cap, causing it to detonate. The detonation of the cap, in turn, will cause the main charge of C-4 to detonate, sending the steel fragments into the opposing personnel.

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (0)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#40083007)

Don't you hate it when you've got multiple remote controls and you accidentally pick up the wrong clicker?

Wandering off topic: Anti tailgater device [gggaz.com] .

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (1)

fbobraga (1612783) | about 2 years ago | (#40085519)

universal remotes fix that :P

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40082543)

lol when I younger I was he remote control. Yeah and the TV was in black and white too.

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (1)

maitai (46370) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082587)

When I was growing up we had (until I was 6 and the tube died) a combo TV with the radio, TV and turntable combined. And we had an actual "clicker". One button, when you pushed it it mechanically clicked, and the mechanical knob would move to the next channel.

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40083091)

When I was growing up we had (until I was 6 and the tube died) a combo TV with the radio, TV and turntable combined. And we had an actual "clicker". One button, when you pushed it it mechanically clicked, and the mechanical knob would move to the next channel.

Yep, they were mechanical/sonic - they didn't even use power (batteries) in those days. And you could do all kinds of tricks to the "set" without the remote (like turn it on/off, change channels, change the volume, etc) by jingling your key chain in front of the "set's" microphone.

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (1)

517714 (762276) | about 2 years ago | (#40084351)

Yeah our dog's tags were just the right pitch to change the channel. He had a habit of scratching his neck on fourth down and short when the Redskins were going for the first down. We seemed to miss a lot of key plays. I miss that dog.

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (1)

sh00z (206503) | about 2 years ago | (#40086219)

And you could do all kinds of tricks to the "set" without the remote (like turn it on/off, change channels, change the volume, etc) by jingling your key chain in front of the "set's" microphone.

Yeah, I remember how much trouble my brother and I caused when we realized that a Slinky could really make it go haywire.

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40083651)

When I was growing up we had to crawl three miles across broken glass. to change the channel

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (2)

patchmaster (463431) | about 2 years ago | (#40082635)

I will get up and change the channel the old fashioned way for the rest of the day,

I would do that, but my TV doesn't have a channel changer on it. It's remote or nothing.

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (1)

KozmoStevnNaut (630146) | about 2 years ago | (#40084713)

I thought mine didn't have any buttons as well, but it turned out to have touch buttons, barely indicated with low-contrast markings.

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (1)

fbobraga (1612783) | about 2 years ago | (#40085553)

RTFM

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#40083025)

I still have a TV like that, a 19 inch Kenmore, works great for my old video games when my crappy ass 3 year lifespan LCD TV cant work with a light gun ... or bother putting current limiting inline with its futuristic LED backlight. ... fucking Kenmore is older than I am, and I was born in the 70's AND still has a decent picture!

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | about 2 years ago | (#40084131)

Kids. Back when I was a munchkin, back in the '50s, we only had one dial for tuning because there wasn't any such thing as UHF. Channels 2 through 13 were all there were and and the only colors you got were black and white.

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | about 2 years ago | (#40084945)

the only colors you got were black and white.

When I was a kid we only had white. The black pixels had to sit at the back of the TV.

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (1)

sensei moreh (868829) | about 2 years ago | (#40085675)

I don't think my parents' first two TVs even had UHF receivers. The portable they bought for my grandmother when she came to live with us was similar to FudRucker's father's TV (one knob for VHF, another for UHF), but, whereas the VHF knob had click stops for each channel, the UHF knob did not.

Re:in honor of Eugene Polley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40086859)

The first TV I remember was a black and white Philco with the same "two big chanel knobs" setup.

When I was a little kid I'd insist on watching until the little dot on the screen disappeared, then I had to go to bed. I don't recall exactly when it was replaced with a color set. It became our "backup set", or "set I could use when I lost the argument over the other set and really, really, wanted to watch something", which wasn't every often.

In the early or mid 80s, this set would pick up cel signals in the high UHF bands. Those chanels got eaten by analog cel!

It eventually ended up shoved in the utility closet. At some point during the late 80s or early 90s, I decided it would be interesting to plug my "new tech" C64 into the old tech Philco. It was amazing that this worked, since the Phil' was a vacuum tube set. The only real problem was picture distortion.

Plainly the old Phil' was on its last legs and not worth fixing. The working "backup set" was fully solid state, small and light enough to fit on top of the fridge, and it came with... a remote!

I don't know what happened to the Philco. It was forgotten in the whirlwind of life as I went to school, struggled with finding a job, etc. All the usualy 20/30 something stuff. I think it most likely ended up at the Salvation Army.

If it was invented tomorrow... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40082339)

... I wonder what the MPAA / RIAA / The Bad Guys would say about muting their precious commercials?

I'm sure a "do not mute" flag would quickly appear in the DVB stream.

Re:If it was invented tomorrow... (4, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | about 2 years ago | (#40082759)

Dude.... STFU... you could give them ideas today.

Parrot TV (4, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082341)

In the 1970s some remote controls used ultrasonics - ultra to humans, not to parrots... not sure if the bird was changing the channels on purpose or not, but it would make a whistle and the channel would change.

Re:Parrot TV (4, Interesting)

rekoil (168689) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082387)

I remember these. They weren't even electronic - each button on the remote caused a tine to be pulled and released which was tuned to a specific ultrasonic frequency. This is why the early remotes were called "clickers" - releasing the tine made a metallic clicking sound. It also meant that random ambient sounds that matched the target frequency could cause your TV to turn on/off, change channels, etc on its own.

There were also remotes that weren't even wireless, with a 10' long tether wire to the unit. The advertised "advantage" of these was that they didn't need batteries.

Re:Parrot TV (3, Insightful)

million_monkeys (2480792) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082547)

I remember these. They weren't even electronic - each button on the remote caused a tine to be pulled and released which was tuned to a specific ultrasonic frequency. This is why the early remotes were called "clickers" - releasing the tine made a metallic clicking sound. It also meant that random ambient sounds that matched the target frequency could cause your TV to turn on/off, change channels, etc on its own.

There were also remotes that weren't even wireless, with a 10' long tether wire to the unit. The advertised "advantage" of these was that they didn't need batteries.

They should have advertised the advantage as "never lose your remote again".

Re:Parrot TV (1)

forkazoo (138186) | about 2 years ago | (#40082905)

At that point, nobody had ever lost a remote control, so it would have been a fairly unappealing selling point for a lot of people.

Re:Parrot TV (1)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082559)

Aw, heck, I remember having one of these as a kid in the early 80's. Once we went "cordless", we could rearrange the furniture a bit to give us a bit more distance from the TV.

Re:Parrot TV (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40082763)

" They weren't even electronic - each button on the remote caused a tine to be pulled and released which was tuned to a specific ultrasonic frequency."

    They were also introduced by Zenith a year later, and called "The Space Command". They were far more successful than the "Flash-Matic", which had to be aimed accurately, went through batteries quickly, and the TV had to be kept out of direct lighting or the photocells on the TV wouldn't trigger, or would be triggered randomly.

    We had our 25" monochrome Zenith until 1976, when my parents decided to _finally_ get a colour set. (I think that a lot of that had to do with fact that I was just learning to drive, and I found out that a combination of car keys and small coins gently jiggled in my pocket would cause the TV to go nuts.)

Re:Parrot TV (1)

517714 (762276) | about 2 years ago | (#40084373)

Back in the days when pennies jingled instead of rattled.

Re:Parrot TV (1)

mirix (1649853) | about 2 years ago | (#40082773)

Yep, Zenith 'Space Commander' used the ultrasonic chimes system, like this. I believe it was just a single frequency per button, nothing fancy, so little protection against ambient racket.

A neat side effect was the channel would change when your wife dropped pots and pans in the kitchen. (Hey, this was the 50's.)

Re:Parrot TV (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#40083125)

I remember these. They weren't even electronic - each button on the remote caused a tine to be pulled and released which was tuned to a specific ultrasonic frequency. This is why the early remotes were called "clickers" - releasing the tine made a metallic clicking sound. It also meant that random ambient sounds that matched the target frequency could cause your TV to turn on/off, change channels, etc on its own.

My cousins had an ultrasonic remote TV like this. Jingling keys would cause the TV to switch channels, or mute. The TV had half a dozen or so separate tuners, each of which could be tuned to a favourite channel. Clicking the channel up or channel down buttons would switch you from one tuner to another, and thus from station to station without having to go through the intermediate channels. Great idea back in the day when even in the city there were only a handful of broadcasters.

Ultrasonic remotes (3, Interesting)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082555)

I believe I've mentioned this on here before, but my grandfather had one of the early TVs with an ultrasonic remote up until the 90's.

The problem is certain sounds would cause it to change the channel -- particularly jingling keys or coins, flushing the toilet, or using a vacuum cleaner.

I suspect he enjoyed demoing that for people more than he liked watching TV.

Re:Parrot TV (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 2 years ago | (#40082693)

Indeed, you could have minutes of fun also remote-controlling your cat. One click for "wake up" and two for "leave the room at high velocity".

Re:Parrot TV (3, Funny)

jimicus (737525) | about 2 years ago | (#40084759)

I've already got a remote control of sorts that does that - it's called "big box of dry cat food".

Re:Parrot TV (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 2 years ago | (#40082993)

It goes back a long time before that - the Zenith Space Command remote was acoustic and introduced in 1956. All you could hear was the "click" - hence the nickname for remotes - "the clicker".

      Brett

Re:Parrot TV (1)

laejoh (648921) | about 2 years ago | (#40084659)

So that was what John Cleese was doing during The Parrot Sketch! The batteries were gone and he was hitting the parrot on the table like we all do with our remotes :)

Sorry to kill the anecdote... (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#40088891)

.. but the frequency range of birds hearing is even worse than that of humans. You can hear higher frequencies than your average parrot. It was probably just coincidence - the birds whistling happened to be on an audible frequency that also triggered the primitive badly filtered electronics in the TV.

Harmless to humans? (-1, Troll)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082361)

Have you seen the waistlines of the fat slobs who don't even have to get up to switch channels?

Re:Harmless to humans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40082381)

No, and I don't want to, so please don't post any photos of yourself.

Re:Harmless to humans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40082393)

Troll. You mean like your waistline?

"Currently Dead"? Check! (5, Funny)

balzi (244602) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082377)

I can't believe this guy. He is so committed to getting in the current slashdot poll, that he's become the newest "Currently Dead Inventor".

I will create a post in the poll comments to record his memory forever - the inventor is dead! Long live the Inventor!

I never saw one of those (4, Interesting)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082417)

My folks were in the TV sales business and I never encountered a remote like the article describes. The first remotes I saw in the 50s were wired: a big box with the channel and volume controls was connected by a thick cable to the TV. The channel tuning was mechanical (a cylinder in the set had a separate tuned circuit for each channel and channel changing required rotating the cylinder to switch in the correct one), so when you changed the channel, the tuner in the set would go *clunk* clunk* *clunk* until it got to the right one. The next ones I remember were Zenith wireless. The remote consisted of several metal cylinders that emitted a tone when struck by a mechanical pushbutton on the remote. Trouble with those was other household sounds would trigger the TV, like the metal tags on a pet's collar.

And I'll bet almost no one here has ever encountered a vertical or horizontal "hold" control. In those days, we had to establish picture sync ourselves, AND WE LIKED IT!

Re:I never saw one of those (4, Funny)

ACS Solver (1068112) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082465)

I think I just realized one of the few advantages of coming from a Soviet country - I was surprised by a remote control as a luxurious item in around 1995 ;)

Re:I never saw one of those (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 2 years ago | (#40082641)

I used to sync the vertical so the frame was divided with the bottom half of the frame in the top half of the tube. Ticked my sister off no end, because we didn't have a remote on that TV.

Re:I never saw one of those (1)

gmdiesel (1272738) | about 2 years ago | (#40082741)

Ah, there's someone still reading Slashdot who actually remembers this stuff, even used it. These young folks speak of the Zenith tuning fork remote as if it were a relic unearthed in an archaeological dig, and are as unaware of why we call it the "clicker" as they are wondering why we say "dial" the phone.

Re:I never saw one of those (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | about 2 years ago | (#40083231)

Ah, there's someone still reading Slashdot who actually remembers this stuff, even used it. These young folks speak of the Zenith tuning fork remote as if it were a relic unearthed in an archaeological dig, and are as unaware of why we call it the "clicker" as they are wondering why we say "dial" the phone.

And what's funny is that same guy is sitting here tinkering with his Perl script that reads radio show RSS feeds, downloads the shows, resamples the audio, combines the show hourly fragments into a single MP3 file, then automatically loads them into iTunes. I feel like my early drafting teacher who would tell us he was born before the Wright Brothers had flown and was now headed out on a jet for a vacation.
 

Re:I never saw one of those (4, Interesting)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 2 years ago | (#40082745)

Years ago, I read a great article by Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini [asktog.com] about Transactional Analysis [wikipedia.org] and how it relates to UIs and such. I don't remember if it's in any of his books or in the Apple Developer newsletters of yore. I'm having a hard time finding it, unfortunately. But in the article, he recounts a story about selling televisions with digital remotes--back when these were brand new.

The story goes that when TVs first got digital remote controls, the salesmen would show the customer the remote because, at the time, the ability to change the channel from across the room was new and novel and pretty cool! But the customer would always say the same thing: "I'm not so lazy that I can't get off the damn couch and change the channel!" And, let's be honest, how would you respond to that? "Actually, sir, you are that lazy. Or you will be once you have this." Keep in mind that the only time you saw a TV with a remote was in a hospital or if you had older parents/grandparents who couldn't get off the damn couch and change the channel. If you were young and spry, you had no business using a remote! Having a remote was a sign that you were old...

Once they said that, they weren't interested in TVs with remotes and no amount of salesmanship would change their mind.

So the solution that Tog brought up wasn't to sell the customer on having a remote control, but to sell them on digital tuning. "Digital tuning is great! No more having to fiddle with all the fine tuning knobs to get the best picture! Just choose the channel and it will immediately lock it in! No knobs to break or get serviced--after all, you should have your TV serviced every year so that you don't end up having to use a pair of pliers to change the channel. So you'll save money in the long run because there'll be less need for service! Digital tuning is a boon to mankind!"

Once you've convinced the TV buyer that they really want a TV with digital tuning, you throw in the remote: "And the fun part is that they can then make a cool remote control to change the channels!" The idea was that you're buying a better TV that happened to have a remote (which was a smart decision) rather than buying a remote controlled TV (which was a lazy decision). In fact, so the story goes, one day the salesman neglected to even mention the remote. The customer bought the TV and salesman brought out a bunch of boxes, one of which contained the remote. When the customer said, "What's that?" and the salesman said, "Oh, that's the remote," the customer immediately started off with, "I'm not so lazy that I..."

The whole thing is presented in the frame of Transactional Analysis and the Parent/Adult/Child context (ie, you want to have an appropriate balance of smart and cool in your products) and is a very interesting read.

Re:I never saw one of those (1)

slew (2918) | about 2 years ago | (#40083889)

I haven't read this, but from your description this seems like how a therapist (playing a nurturing Parent in transactional analysis) might think that a sales person might try to sell a television (expecting to educate the customer on what they should want).

A typical experienced sales person probably instead asks question of the customer (playing the role of the adapted Child forcing the customer into the Parent role) so that the salesperson what was important to the customer and then switch to the Adult role to close the sale (or the critical Parent if the customer switches to the free Child mode to attempt to disengage the sales person).

Since Tog's personality seems to play the Parent role, I guess that doesn't surprise me too much...

Re:I never saw one of those (2)

stepho-wrs (2603473) | about 2 years ago | (#40084159)

The day that I get so lazy that I can't order one of the kids to get up and change the channel ...

Re:I never saw one of those (2)

usuallylost (2468686) | about 2 years ago | (#40087745)

The story goes that when TVs first got digital remote controls, the salesmen would show the customer the remote because, at the time, the ability to change the channel from across the room was new and novel and pretty cool! But the customer would always say the same thing: "I'm not so lazy that I can't get off the damn couch and change the channel!"

They didn't need a fancy remote not because they were not lazy but because they had kids for those jobs. I can clearly remember my father, in particular, yelling for my siblings and I to come change the channel and do any additional tuning necessary. So not only did he already have a remote it was one that would fetch iced tea, sandwiches and mow the lawn.

Re:I never saw one of those (1)

black6host (469985) | about 2 years ago | (#40082789)

And I'll bet almost no one here has ever encountered a vertical or horizontal "hold" control. In those days, we had to establish picture sync ourselves, AND WE LIKED IT!

Probably not many, but I do, for sure. The show "Outer Limits" played off those and other "features" very well in the opening scene of each episode. And for those who liked to mess with those controls to enhance somebody's viewing pleasure: did you every try rotating the yoke on the back of the picture tube 180 degrees? Lots of fun!

Re:I never saw one of those (2)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 2 years ago | (#40083001)

There were radios with wireless remotes in the 30's. The Philco "Mystery Control" used radio control to run the radio using something very much like a telephone dial.

http://www.philcorepairbench.com/mystery/index.htm [philcorepairbench.com]

      Brett

Arrangements for the funeral... (4, Funny)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082463)

He will be respectfully tucked in between the cushions of a couch.

I don't think so... (1)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 2 years ago | (#40082517)

I don't think so, Nikola Tesla has been dead for 69 years.

Re:I don't think so... (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#40083157)

I don't think so, Nikola Tesla has been dead for 69 years.

You have any evidence of Tesla having a TV?

Re:I don't think so... (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#40087823)

Haven't you heard? Tesla invented EVERYTHING! So he also invented TV, the sitcom, and the first game show.

Hmmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40082783)

I guess his batteries died. :-)

(sighs)

My wife, when a child, was her parent's remote control.

Tesla's prophetic words (1)

mbstone (457308) | about 2 years ago | (#40083463)

The greatest value of my invention will result from its effect upon warfare and armaments, for by reason of its certain and unlimited destructiveness it will tend to bring about and maintain permanent peace among nations. U.S. Pat. 613,809, p. 7, ll.107-112.

What actually happened was that the invention of the remote control resulted in certain and unlimited discord between husbands and wives, and among siblings.

Name please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40083873)

The name of the person should be written in the 1st phrase, not just before the end

If the batteries fail in your remote control (1)

ksemlerK (610016) | about 2 years ago | (#40084363)

or if you lose it, a 6' long broom stick works well enough to change the channel, adjust the volume, and turn of the TV from the comfort of your chair. Hint: tape a cotton ball to the end of the stick that hits the buttons, so you don't accidently break them when you miss your target. Put white masking tape on your buttons so they are more easily visible.

Re:If the batteries fail in your remote control (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | about 2 years ago | (#40088599)

Most of the modern HDTVs don't have buttons on the front anymore. They're around the side or even on back. It's more sleek and stylish that way, I guess. Besides, most people are using cable or some other input box to change the channels rather than the TV itself.

shut off annoying commercials (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40084491)

FTA:

could 'even shut off annoying commercials while the picture remains on the screen.'

I do this all the time.
The flash-magic being invented for just this purpose is great for arguments*, it will help me to shut up the mute-haters once and for all !

*) todo: fact-check.

Too sedentary... (1)

fbobraga (1612783) | about 2 years ago | (#40085487)

... the explanation for death

Absolutely harmless to humans! (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 2 years ago | (#40085787)

That's... an oddly specific assurance.

Not sure if he's dead... (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 2 years ago | (#40087107)

...he may just need new batteries.

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