Robert Adler, the father of the Remote Control (along with Eugene Polley) died on February 15th 2007. He was born in Vienna, Austria in 1913 where he was educated. During the war, he emigrated to the US, where he got a job working in the Research division of Zenith Electronics Corporation working on television technology.
Zenith pioneered the work on television remote controls. Their earliest remote controls were wire-based - such as Lazy Bones, developed in 1950. In 1955, Eugene Polley developed the Flashmatic, a wireless remote that directed light at photo cells located at the corners of the TV. Unfortunately, the photo cells also reacted to direct sunlight. Adler’s solution was to develop a remote that used ultrasound. His Space Command remote control unit was very simple - the buttons struck one of four aluminium rods inside the unit, like a xylophone, to generate ultrasonic signals - it didn’t need even batteries. Adler and Polley were honoured with an Emmy Award in 1997 for their work on creating the wireless remote control. As for taking the blame for the phenomena of the couch potato he said, “People ask me all the time, ‘Don’t you feel guilty for it?’ And I say, ‘That’s ridiculous!’ It seems reasonable and rational to control the TV from where you normally sit and watch television.”