Retrotechtacular: 7-function Remote Control Color Television

Ah, the days when a television was a solid piece of furniture. When it comes to moving, we can’t say we miss it. But looking at this wooden TV cabinet with storage for its 7-function remote we can’t help but think that today’s TVs seem more… trivial… when it comes to the layout of the living room.

The promotional video that goes with this model is a gem of a different era. As you probably have heard, this week [Eugene Polley] passed away. He is credited with inventing the first wireless television remote control. It was not nearly as advance as what’s shown in the video after the break. Instead, it used visible light in conjunction with four light sensors at each corner of the CRT screen. You could turn the set on and off, and flip through channels, but sometimes with the right lighting conditions the set would change all by itself. We wonder if you’d ever come home to find the TV has mysteriously flipped itself on?

14 thoughts on “Retrotechtacular: 7-function Remote Control Color Television

  1. We had a later model Zenith TV with the “clicker”, which had spring-loaded hammers that struck a little ultrasonic tuned “xylophone” inside the hand-held remote (no batteries required).

    The “receiver” was a crystal microphone with a single vacuum-tube amplifier, mounted in a factory-installed metal box screwed onto the back of the TV set.

    The utlrasonic “receiver” would turn the TV on and up to full volume if you forgot to unplug it before turning on the vacuum cleaner.

    1. One of my friends growing up had this. When a house was being built next door, the TV was found to have a considerable variety of reactions to the sounds of nails being driven.

  2. All of this led to TV Begone. TV TV TV I thought when I heard this news item, that they meant the 1938 RADIO remote. Of course the first remote control was Tesla’s boat more than a century ago.

  3. Old TV with a standby light, just like today’s flat panels. Love the direct access to features one can only get to on current TVs by digging through a bunch of onscreen menus.

    Curious that RCA was showcasing this latest technology on a TV with an obsolete 21 inch round tube. Could be this film was made just prior to the introduction of the “square” color tube.

    IIRC there were square monochrome tubes at the same time as the big round color tube, and smaller square color tubes – but once a square color tube had as big a picture as the round tube, the round tube sets were as hard to get rid of as an analog TV is today.

  4. “Colah”
    This guy has the strangest inflection…

    I’m always kind of struck by how big and clunky old things like this are. I know there was limitations, and I’m very impressed with how engineers hacked awesome devices like this with what was available.

    Of course, I grew up when broadband internet was new and exciting ;)

    1. Linguists call it “Mid Atlantic”. That’s where you hear words like drawers pronounced as “draws” and nearly all vowels are pronounced in their short sounds.

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