Geek Trivia

The First Television Remotes Communicated With The TV Set By?

Infrared Light
Musical Chimes
Wires
Ultrasonic Waves
What Was Once Considered Cruel And Unusual Punishment To Feed Inmates?

Answer: Wires

Today, modern “smart TV” sets come with advanced remotes that, in many cases, use Bluetooth wireless technology so that you don’t even need “line of sight” to your television to adjust the settings. Prior to the introduction of wireless standard remote controls, however, infrared light ruled the living room for decades where it cheaply and efficiently enabled generations of TV watchers to aimlessly channel surf from the comfort of their couches.

Long before we had either of these things, however, the very first television remote was a much different affair that didn’t employ any sort of wireless or light-based communication between the remote unit and the television set. Instead, it was tethered, quite literally, to the TV set by a long wire.

The very first TV remote was created by the Zenith Radio Corporation in 1950 and was, appropriately enough, called the “Lazy Bones”. The remote was egg-shaped to fit into a closed hand with the buttons operated by the user’s thumb. From the remote, which was tethered to the TV set by a 17 foot cable about the width and shape of a lamp’s power cord, you could adjust the volume up or down and flick through the channels one by one as if turning the knob on the TV set by hand.

The remote cost $30 as an add-on for new compatible Zenith television sets—for the curious, that early 1950s $30 upgrade is equivalent to approximately $296 when adjusted for inflation. For perspective, the TV seen in the photo here, Zenith’s 1951 19-inch “Byron model” console, would have retailed for around $450 dollars (which is approximately $4,437 when adjusted for inflation). In the early days of television, these simple and small black and white sets were modern cutting edge technology equivalent to the wall-filling premium flat screen TVs of today.

Image courtesy of Zenith.