TV Wireless Remote Inventor Remembered for Innovation, Viewer Impact

May 23, 2012 11:38 pm

Perhaps nobody has done more to inspire both innovation and laziness with the very same invention. Eugene Polley, inventor of the wireless remote control, died Sunday at the age of 96. Polley’s masterpiece was first introduced by Zenith in 1955, the same year that Gunsmoke, The Honeymooners and Captain Kangaroo took to the air.

“It’s something I’m afraid we kind of take for granted, and so I think this loss is not going to get that kind of attention that it probably deserves,” Engadget Managing Editor Darren Murph told Just My Show. “To me, it’s way more than the remote control akin to a TV. It’s actually more of something that changed the game from an ideological standpoint. Today, if it’s not wireless, it’s a problem from the get go.”

But where does the seemingly simple remote control rank among the latest and greatest innovations treasured by techies? In terms of game changing technology for consumers, Murph believes that Polley’s invention is still right up there at the top of the list.

“It might even be above the iPod, Murph told JMS. “The iPod basically stuck to music. It didn’t really go outside of that realm too much, but the wireless remote has impacted so many things across so many boundaries. It’s definitely in my top five for technological innovations that have changed the way we see things now.”

But in an era where technology is constantly changing, the remote control’s greatest legacy may be it’s longevity.

“This thing has lived on for decades and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon,” Murph projects. “And it’s really rare for a technology to last that long. I mean, even if you look at the CD, it’s been around forever but it’s quickly going out of style. But I really doubt that wireless transmissions as it relates to user interface is going to go out of style anytime soon. And it’s kind of amazing what he started. I don’t even know if he knew exactly what kind of revolution he was going to start.”

Chilling on the couch with a bag of Cheetos likely isn’t going out of style either. Thanks Eugene.

You can hear audio soundbytes from my interview with Engadget Managing Editor Darren Murph along with other retro related news stories in the upcoming episode of Just My Show.

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