The inventor of the "Remote Control" dies.


Sep 26, 2000

Robert Adler, Zenith Physicist, Dies at 93

Robert Adler, a physicist and prolific inventor best known as the co-inventor of the television remote control device, died Feb. 15 in Boise, Idaho. He was 93.

Dr. Adler, who held nearly 200 United States patents, worked at Zenith Electronics on and off for nearly 60 years. He was director of the research division during an era when consumer electronics companies like Zenith and RCA operated fully staffed research laboratories on par with AT&T?s Bell Laboratories.

The Space Command ultrasonic remote control, which used high-frequency sound, was introduced by Zenith in 1956. ?Nothing between you and the set but space!? proclaimed early advertisements for the device. The sound wave was generated by hitting a spring-loaded button that produced a clicking sound when pushed.

?Bob was definitely the father of the clicker,? said Jerry K. Pearlman, Zenith?s former chief executive.

The ultrasonic technology remained the standard of the television industry for 25 years. Zenith and other electronics companies sold nine million such devices until the early 1980s, when remote-control units using infrared signals began to dominate the market.

My parents had one of the first of the ultrasonic controlled remote televisons. You could see what appeared to be tuning forks if you looked into the end that pointed towards the television. In fact, up until I moved out of my parents house at 18, the Zenith Remote Commander black and white television was the only t.v. we ever had.