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." (Read more Eugene Polley stories.)