The History of the Remote Control

In today’s world, we tend to take the remote control for granted. It allows us to command our electronic devices efficiently and reliably. Remote controls have come a long way—there are even wireless remote controls now!

What is a remote control?

In tech terms, a remote control is a component device used to operate TV sets, sound systems, or DVD players through wireless connections, usually infrared waves.

It has been developed over time to include Bluetooth connectivity, voice control, and motion sensor abilities. Today’s remotes issue commands electronically from considerable distances.

Tesla’s Role

The use of remote controls can be dated back to 1898 when it was developed by Nikola Tesla. First Nikola demonstrated the working of a remote control by controlling a small boat in an exhibition at Madison Square Garden.

Enter Torres

In 1903, Leonardo Torres presented a device he named Telekino, which consisted of a robot that was guided through commands transmitted through electromagnetic waves. This was the first of the modern day wireless remote control.

He then demonstrated his invention at Bilbao by guiding a small boat to the dock. He tried several greater experiments but was forced to stop due to his lack of funds.

From Planes to TVs

In 1932, the first remote control plane was flown. Remote controls were also routinely used by the military in World War II for a variety of applications.

It’s usage in television started in 1950 when Zenith Radio Corporation developed the first TV remote. It was operated by shining a beam of light directly onto a photoelectric cell though it didn’t work because of the cell’s inability to distinguish between the beam of light and the Sun. It had to be pointed at it precisely with no room for error.

And Now Adler

Robert Adler, a wireless remote inventor, developed a remote control device in 1956 called Zenith Space Command. It used ultrasound to change TV channels and sound level.

More Recent Advances

A more complex remote control was developed in 1973, and it could do minimal tasks such as turning a TV on and off and changing channels.

Controllers that could perform more functions were produced in the late 1970s, and they used infrared communication to perform their tasks.

Around 1980, a cable TV converter with infrared control was manufactured by a Canadian company called Viewstar. It became popular in a short time and was sold all over the world.

Remote controls that use Freespace motion were produced in 2006 by Hillcrest Labs, and they allow users to control television sets by gestures.

These devices have four buttons and a scroll wheel, like that of a mouse. These new controls use radio waves instead of infrared to send signals to a TV antenna connected to a USB slot within a television set.

Remote controls have been essential to operate electronics like TV sets or sound systems. These advances in technology have made it possible for remotes to keep pace with ever-changing electronics.