US & Canada

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.

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.