TV remote control inventor Eugene Polley dies, aged 96
Polley's pioneering invention helped transform the television experience, as up until 1955 people had to get up from their chair and turn a knob on the TV set to change the channel.
The Chicago-born engineer started his 47-year career in technology with Zenith Radio Corporation (now Zenith Electronics, a subsidiary of LG Electronics) in 1935, but shifted to focus on radar advances for the US during World War II.
Polley would change television viewing forever in 1955 when his 'Flash-Matic' remote control debuted in a new Zenith TV. The device was shaped like a ray-gun and even featured a red trigger.
Flash-Matic worked by using four photo cells, one for each corner of the TV screen. The viewer then used the directional flashlight to activate four control functions - for turning the picture and sound on and off, and for changing channels via a dial.
Polley has since been called everything from "founding father of the couch potato" to "the beach boy of channel surfing".
Remote controls were initially a luxury, but they are now a necessity to navigate the hundreds of channels available on TV platforms, along with other services, such as video on-demand and personal video recorders.
The early Zenith TV model even claimed to have functionality that would turn the TV adverts on and off, because Commander Eugene F McDonald Jr, Zenith's late founder-president, believed that viewers would 'not tolerate commercials'.
McDonald wanted to take back control from the advertisers, and so he asked Polley to ensure the Flash-Matic could "shut off the annoying commercials while the picture remains on screen".
Building on Polley's early achievements, the late Dr Robert Adler later developed a new generation of wireless TV remote controls based on ultrasonic technology, before the TV industry adopted infrared, or IR, in the early 1980s.
An IR remote works by using a low-frequency light beam, so low that it can't be viewed by the human eye. Today, virtually all TV sets, set top boxes and home entertainment systems come with an IR remote control, but that is thanks in part to the trial-blazing work by Polley.
He is survived by his son Eugene . Polley Jr and grandson Aaron. He was preceded in death by his wife Blanche and daughter Joan Polley.