Did you know that in 1983, 105.9 million viewers would point their TV remote controls at the screen to turn on MASH, making it the most watched program in the history of television?
Much the same way MASH wasn’t an overnight success, TV took many, many years before it was a staple of every home. The dawn of television’s history was marked by two distinct paths. Early inventors built TVs based on Paul Nipkow’s rotating disk technology, or on A.A. Campbell-Swinton’s and Boris Rosing’s cathode ray tubes. The latter worked better, and wound up replacing the other mechanical method.
Though in 1897, the cathode ray tube was invented, it wasn’t until 1927 when Philo Farnsworth filed for the first television patent. He was the first inventor able to transmit an image, which happened to be a dollar sign, after developing the dissector tube, which was based off the cathode ray tube, that all current electronic TVs are based off of.
Television owners wouldn’t get to see TV remote controls for another 23 years, though. In 1950, the Zenith Radio Corporation created the first TV remote controls, which they called the “Lazy Bone.” All it could do was turn the TV on and off, and change channels. Modern viewers would be interested to learn that these television remote controls weren’t actually wireless–they were connected to the set. While this meant that owners would never need to get replacement remote controls, the Lazy Bone did cause frequent tripping because of its wire.
Proper, wireless TV remote controls wouldn’t be invented for another six years, when Zenith released the “Space Command” to the public. Needing no batteries, the these TV remote controls used ultrasonics to change the channel, and remained the primary form of remote control for 25 years. Inside the Space Command were four aluminum rods that when struck emitted specific high-frequency sounds.
In the 1980s, infrared eventually replaced “clickers” or ultrasonic remotes. These infrared controls are what your own Sharp, Samsung, or Toshiba remote controls are.
Nowadays, our TVs and remotes are so important that if either breaks, we’d rush out to our local electronics store to get the parts to fix them. Some may even windup buying TV remote controls replacements or a whole new set. Regardless of each individual’s own level of fervor for TV, there’s no doubt that it’s become an integral part of our every day lives.