Skip to main content

Robert Alder, Inventor of the Remote Control, Dies

Ever since I read the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, I wanted to be an inventor. To this day Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison are my heroes. I didn't want to become rich and famous. I didn't want to invent everything and anything like Edison. I simply wanted to say "I created that" about something that influences everyone's lives.

Robert Alder did that. Imagine the world without the remote control. There's an entire generation of people who have never stood up and walked across the room to switch channels. But let's look at the bigger picture. Remote controls allow me to personally navigate my life far better. But does that with all of us, but for someone in a wheelchair remote controls are essential.

They're useful for far more than switching between House, 24, and American Idol. They allow my mother-in-law to switch the channel during an unexpected nude scene on HBO, even though no one in the room is under the age of 30. Remote controls allow us to dim the lights, turn on soft music, and have a romantic interlude without ever leaving the sofa. The same technology allows me to use a portable doorbell so I can get the attention of my caregivers and my family when I need it, even from the opposite end of my long house.

Robert Alder you are a hero, at least to me. And until today, I didn't even know your name.

Below are some excerpts from an obituary, courtesy of the Associated Press.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Hit the mute button for a moment of silence: The co-inventor of the TV remote, Robert Adler, has died.

Adler, who won an Emmy Award along with fellow engineer Eugene Polley for the device that made the couch potato possible, died Thursday of heart failure at a Boise nursing home at 93, Zenith Electronics Corp. said Friday.

In his six-decade career with Zenith, Adler was a prolific inventor, earning more than 180 U.S. patents. He was best known for his 1956 Zenith Space Command remote control, which helped make TV a truly sedentary pastime.

In a May 2004 interview with The Associated Press, Adler recalled being among two dozen engineers at Zenith given the mission to find a new way for television viewers to change channels without getting out of their chairs or tripping over a cable.

But he downplayed his role when asked if he felt his invention helped raise a new generation of couch potatoes. "People ask me all the time -- 'Don't you feel guilty for it?' And I say that's ridiculous," he said. "It seems reasonable and rational to control the TV from where you normally sit and watch television."

Various sources have credited either Polley, another Zenith engineer, or Adler as the inventor of the device. Polley created the "Flashmatic," a wireless remote introduced in 1955 that operated on photo cells. Adler introduced ultrasonics, or high-frequency sound, to make the device more efficient in 1956.

Zenith credits them as co-inventors, and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded both Adler and Polley an Emmy in 1997 for the landmark invention.

"He was part of a project that changed the world," Polley said from his home in Lombard, Illinois.

Adler joined Zenith's research division in 1941 after earning a doctorate in physics from the University of Vienna. He retired as research vice president in 1979, and served as a technical consultant until 1999, when Zenith merged with LG Electronics Inc.

During World War II, Adler specialized in military communications equipment. He later helped develop sensitive amplifiers for ultra high frequency signals used by radio astronomers and by the U.S. Air Force for long-range missile detection.

Adler also was considered a pioneer in SAW technology, or surface acoustic waves, in color television sets and touch screens. The technology has also been used in cellular telephones.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published his most recent patent application, for advances in touch screen technology, on February 1.

His wife, Ingrid, said Adler wouldn't have chosen the remote control as his favorite invention. In fact, he didn't even watch much television.

"He was more of a reader," she said. "He was a man who would dream in the night and wake up and say, 'I just solved a problem.' He was always thinking science."

Adler wished he had been recognized for more of his broad-ranging applications that were useful in the war and in space and were building blocks of other technology, she said, "but then the remote control changed the life of every man."

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

People who died on the toilet (real people and fictional characters)

Famous people who died on the toilet. Here is an extensive list of real people who died on the throne. Elvis Presley died of an overdose, falling off the toilet into a pile of his own vomit. Judy Garland died of an overdose discovered slumped over her toilet. King George II of Britain suffered a heart attack while sitting on the toilet. Wenceslaus III of Bohemia assassinated with a spear while he sat on the toilet. Godfrey IV, Duke of Lower Lorraine, was attacked by an assassin while sitting on the toilet. He died a week after the attack. Japanese warlord Uesugi Kenshin was assassinated with a spear while sitting on the toilet. British author Evelyn Waugh, who coincidently also married a woman named Evelyn, died on his toilet. Some believe he drowned in it, however his official cause of death was heart failure. Famed architect Louis Kahn suffered a heart attack and died on the toilet in New York City’s Penn station. One of the early Christian preachers, Arius, had been condemned as a…

More Realistic Anniversary Gift Traditions

New Anniversary Gifts Destined to become Traditional My wife and I have been married for 20 years today. Over the past 20 years I made efforts each year to observe the traditional anniversary gifts. Some of them are certainly more difficult than others, and many of them are hard to find gift worthy in the modern age.
Therefore, I offer you a modern take on anniversary gifts. How many of these will become traditional?
First Anniversary – The Ramen Noodle anniversary. Let’s face it, you blew $30,000 on the wedding, and your student loan debt hasn’t gone anywhere. Share a Cup O’ Noodles. Eat with chopsticks on the floor because you can’t yet afford a couch.
Second Anniversary – The Puppy Anniversary. She’s been looking at you with those eyes that say she wants to start a family, but you just bought a new couch. Get her a puppy instead.
Third Anniversary – The Kinky Lingerie Anniversary. Leather, silk or lace can re-fire the engines after a year of flannel pajamas that smell like the puppy,…

How United Airlines Should Have Handled the Situation

United Airlines is under fire for a viral video that shows them removing a passenger forcibly from an airplane bound for Louisville Kentucky.
Here are the bullets:

The plane was already loaded and full.The airline needed to fly four employees to Louisville Kentucky on the plane. The employees needed to go to prevent another plane from departing late.The airline offered $800 in compensation to the first four people who would volunteer to give up their seats. No one took the offer.The airline went to a lottery, drawing for people at random. These four people were asked to leave the plane, and they would receive the compensation.One of the passengers refused to leave. It's unclear how things escalated, however he was removed by security officers. Reports are conflicting about whether the officers were police officers, TSA workers, or airline staff.The gentleman was literally physically dragged down the aisle receiving while screaming in protest and physically abused in the process.Ap…