TV remote control inventor Eugene Polley dies at 96

Undated photo of Eugene Polley Eugene Polley earned 18 patents during his 47-year career

The inventor of the television remote control has died at the age of 96, his former employer has said.

Zenith Electronics said Eugene Polley passed away of natural causes on Sunday at a Chicago hospital.

His 1955 invention, Flash-Matic, pointed a beam of light at photo cells on each corner of the TV, turning it off and on and changing the channels.

His invention was a luxury add-on in the days before hundreds of cable television channels.

Born in Chicago in 1915, Polley began his engineering career in 1935. He worked at Zenith for 47 years, earning 18 US patents.

A 1955 advertisement for Flash-Matic, the first wireless TV remote control A 1955 advertisement for Flash-Matic, the first wireless TV remote control

He was a long-time resident of Lombard, Illinois, outside Chicago.

Because the Flash-Matic used light to operate the television, it was temperamental and other lights could interfere with its operation.

It was followed by sonic-controlled remotes and then infrared and radio frequency models.

Before Polley's invention, Zenith's first remote was connected to the television by a wire cord.

The first remote would not have fitted down the back of the sofa

Polley was proud of his invention, Zenith spokesman John Taylor told the Associated Press, showing off the Flash-Matic to visitors after his retirement.

"He was a proud owner of a flat-screen TV and modern remote," Mr Taylor added. "He always kept his original remote control with him."

Along with another Zenith engineer, Robert Adler, Polley was honoured in 1997 with an Emmy for his work.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Here was a brilliant inventor proud of his invention. Practically every modern 21st century home boasts of this handy TV gadget. Just imagine viewers rushing to their sets to change channels! Convenience in this electronic day and age is often taken for granted. But thought should be be given to the brains behind the whole project. Eugene Polly blazed an electronic trail was honoured with an Emmy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    A truly great invention that so assists the elderly, bed-ridden and disabled as well as those of us that can't get out of the armchair! My children find it really weird that there used to be TVs without remote controls!

    A real innovator. I hope his invention earned him the fortune he undoubtedly deserved from it.


  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    My remote control broke recently and I can honestly say I truly appreciate this genius invention now.

    There's nothing wrong with trying to make everyones lives a bit easier

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    More important than the invention itself was the idea of switching items on and off remotely. The norm had always been going to the device to operate its controls..A simple idea to make things easier has spawned a lot of changes in thinking.
    Many thanks Eugene Polley.


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