(AP) – Couch potatoes everywhere can pause and thank Eugene Polley for hours of feet-up channel surfing. His invention, the first wireless TV remote, began as a luxury, but with the introduction of hundreds of channels and viewing technologies it has become a necessity. Polley died of natural causes at a suburban Chicago hospital over the weekend. The former Zenith engineer was 96. In 1955, if you wanted to switch TV channels, you got up from your chair, walked across the room, and turned a knob. Or you could buy a new Zenith television with Flash-Matic tuning. The TV came with a green ray-gun-shaped contraption with a red trigger. The advertising promised “TV miracles,” and the “flash tuner” was “absolutely harmless to humans!” Polley was proud of his invention even late in life. He showed visitors at his assisted-living apartment his original Flash-Matic and how it had evolved into the technology of today. “He was a proud owner of a flat-screen TV and modern remote,” said a Zenith spokesman. “He always kept his original remote control with him.”
The remote. The controller. The clicker. Could be the single greatest invention of the past 60 years. Not even exaggerating one bit. I mean think about how important the remote is. Out of every appliance and invention in your entire house, the remote might be the most imperative of all. In a couple of my earliest memories at my Grandma’s house I can recall needing to get up to change the channel on the TV, but other than that I’ve been using the remote control my entire life. Taking it for granted every single moment of every single day. Think about those moments when you lose the remote – absolutely the worst feeling in the world, no? You just lay on the couch watching fucking tennis because after Sportscenter ended ESPN went to the French Open and you can’t do a goddam thing about it because you got no remote. Its an absolutely crippling and debilitating feeling. The trek from your couch to the TV to change the channel by hand might as well be climbing to the peak of Mt. Everest.
Well that used to be every day life before Eugene Polley came around with his science fiction laser remotes. In honor of Eugene I tried to compile a list of the top 5 every-day inventions that impact your life as much as the remote control. Not the obvious ones like cars and computers and the internet. The little things:
5. Air Conditioning – Its not as every day as the remote control and obviously only matters for like half the year, but the A/C is as necessary as it gets in the summer. I’m sure there are poor people and old people who don’t have it, but for the rest of the modern world air conditioning is a given once memorial day hits.
4. Caller I.D. – Doesn’t seem that important, but in the world before caller ID, every time the phone rang it was fuckin Russian Roulette. There’s a 50/50 shot it could be the hot girl you met the other night or your boss telling you to come into work. It could be your buddy calling about a party or it could be your mother calling to complain. Every time you picked up that phone you were taking your life into your own hands. Nowadays you don’t even think of it as an “invention” and you completely take it for granted, but trust me, that shit is important.
3. Automatic Transmission – I know there are gonna be some tough guys out there who are all about their cars. I know there are some people a generation before me that can drive a stick. But for the most part everyone who steps foot into a car expects to push the gas pedal and go. Thats it. No clutch. No stick shift. No gears. Just make the car fucking go. I have absolutely no problem admitting I don’t know how to drive a stick. And I don’t understand people who insist on driving manual. Its such a hardo move. You would never choose to drive a car without power steering, right? Because its harder and a pain in the ass. So why would you choose a stick over an automatic? Because you’re trying to be a tough guy. Also, without automatic I’d say only 10% of women would be able to drive – so in a way automatic transmission is like the atomic bomb. It ultimately led to death and destruction by allowing women to drive.
2. Debit Cards – I have absolutely no fucking idea how the world worked before debit cards and electronic banking. Zero clue. What happened? You get your paycheck and go to the bank? Put some of the money in savings and get the rest in cash? Then what happens when you run out of cash? Can’t just hit the ATM. Can’t just swipe your card. Did you go back to the bank? Is that where people used to whip out their checkbook and write a check? Were you allowed to write IOU’s? Seriously I have no clue how I would even survive in that world.
1. The Remote – Like I said earlier, the single most impactful invention since man invented fire. It probably goes Fire, Wheel, Electricity and then the motherfuckin clicker. Everyone pour out a little for Eugene Polley. Dude’s just as important as Ben Franklin.
Honorable Mention – Microwave, the Drive Thru at fast food restaurants, and YouJizz.