Remote control co-inventor dead at 93

Today I'm mourning the passing of a pioneer. I just discovered that Robert Adler, one of the two men credited with the creation of the remote control while at Zenith, died yesterday of heart failure. He was 93. Adler's remote, called the Zenith Space Command, made its appearance in 1956.

I don't have to explain the importance of the remote, do I? Oh, maybe I do. If you're too young to remember when Meco's disco version of the Star Wars theme topped the charts, then praising Robert Adler is like praising the invention of the wheel -- the thing's so ubiquitous, you barely think about it.

But I remember when my parents got a cable box so that we could get more channels on our 1972 Sony Trinitron. The box came with a remote that could change the channel and turn the cable box on or off -- and that was all. But it was still miraculous, with the ability to switch from Rocky and Bullwinkle to Underdog to Jonny Quest on Sunday mornings especially appreciated. (Hey, why should I have to put down my cereal when I'm in the zone?)

Sometimes it's terrifying just how many things I can now control without ever leaving my chair. Here in the office, I have six remotes within easy reach, plus a few more lost somewhere in the stacks of stuff. (I really have to clean this place.) But I can't say I'm not grateful. Tonight, when I switch from last week's Smallville to this week's Heroes to last night's Robot Chicken without having to budge from the cozy confines of my blanket, I'll raise a glass in Adler's honor.

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Emru Townsend

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