TV Remote Control

In the early 1940s, commercial television broadcasting began in the United States, quickly making the television a major household item.  Early TVs were small and only capable of black and white images.  If you needed to change the channel, you had to get up off the couch and walk over to the set and turn a dial.  All of that would change with the remote control.  The first remote control was invented in 1950 and called “Lazy Bones,” by Zenith Electronics Corporation.  “Lazy Bones” was a remote control connected to the television by a cable that would transmit the channel changes to the TV.  People did not like the cable and kept tripping over it.  In 1955, a Zenith engineer named Eugene Polley invented the “Flashmatic,” a wireless TV remote control. [1] The culture behind the television remote control has helped lead to the idea of Americans as lazy.

Televisions have become so popular that there are several in most households, meaning there are several remotes in every home.  In “2006 … there [were] an estimated 500 million television remote-control units (an average of 4 per household) being used at any given time.”[2] Remotes are no longer just for the TV, but also for every addition to the television set, such as, DVD players.  There is no longer a need to get up to change the channels on the television; and with the amount of channels now offered it would be near impossible to change by turning a dial on the set.  The remote control along with the ever growing list of channels has turned many people into “couch potatoes.”


[1]Phil Ament, “Remote Control History.” http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/remotectl.htm (accessed February 9, 2009).

[2] Gary Picariello, “The History of the Television Remote Control.” http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/59525/a_history_of_the_television_remote_pg2.html?cat=39 (accessed February 10, 2009).

Image from http://www.felston.com/images/remote_control.jpg (accessed March13, 2009)

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