The buttons on Zenith’s original ‘clicker’ remote were a mechanical marvel

If you’ve ever heard someone refer to a TV remote as a “clicker,” it’s because of Robert Adler’s 1956 creation. The elegant Star Trek-esque gadget pioneered a durable, clicky action for controlling gadgets and a simplicity of form that has since been naively abandoned.   

When Zenith first started experimenting with wireless remote controls, it used beams of light that the television could receive to communicate a command, eventually debuting the Flash-Matic in 1955. It only took a year in the market for this idea to be abandoned due to its sensitivity to full-spectrum light from the sun and lightbulbs. So Zenith’s engineers tried an even simpler approach that didn’t require batteries at all, using sound instead of light.

This is from well before my time – and I have no idea if devices like this even ever made it to The Netherlands, where I’m originally from – but this is such a cool solution to the technical problem they were facing. I had no idea early remote controls were sound-based.


  1. 2023-08-01 3:31 pm
  2. 2023-08-02 9:13 am