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Remote control

A remote control is a component of an electronics device, most commonly a television set, used for operating the device wirelessly from a short line-of-sight distance.

The term remote control can be contracted to remote or controller. It is known by many other names as well, such as clicker, didge, flipper, the tuner or the changer. Commonly, remote controls are Consumer IR devices used to issue commands from a distance to televisions or other consumer electronics such as stereo systems, DVD players and dimmers. Remote controls for these devices are usually small wireless handheld objects with an array of buttons for adjusting various settings such as television channel, track number, and volume. In fact, for the majority of modern devices with this kind of control, the remote contains all the function controls while the controlled device itself only has a handful of essential primary controls. Most of these remotes communicate to their respective devices via infrared (IR) signals and a few via radio signals. Television IR signals can be mimicked by a universal remote, which is able to emulate the functionality of most major brand television remote controls. They are usually powered by small AAA or AA size batteries.


One of the earliest examples of remote control was developed in 1898 by Nikola Tesla, and described in his patent, U.S. Patent 613,809, named Method of an Apparatus for Controlling Mechanism of Moving Vehicle or Vehicles. In 1898, he demonstrated a radio-controlled boat to the public during an electrical exhibition at Madison Square Garden. Tesla called his boat a "teleautomaton".[1]

In 1903, Leonardo Torres Quevedo presented the Telekino at the Paris Academy of Science, accompanied by a brief, and making an experimental demonstration. In the same time he obtained a patent in France, Spain, Great Britain, and the United States. The Telekino consisted of a robot that executed commands transmitted by electromagnetic waves. It constituted the world's first apparatus for radio control[citation needed] and was a pioneer in the field of remote control. In 1906, in the presence of the king and before a great crowd, Torres successfully demonstrated the invention in the port of Bilbao, guiding a boat from the shore. Later, he would try to apply the Telekino to projectiles and torpedoes, but had to abandon the project for lack of financing.

The first remote-controlled model aeroplane flew in 1932, and the use of remote control technology for military purposes was worked intensively during the Second World War, one result of this being the German Wasserfall missile.

By the late 1930s, several radio manufacturers offered remote controls for some of their higher-end models. Most of these were connected to the set being controlled by wires, but the Philco Mystery Control (1939) was a battery-operated low-frequency radio transmitter,[2] thus making it the first wireless remote control for a consumer electronics device.

The first remote intended to control a television was developed by Zenith Radio Corporation in 1950. The remote — officially called "Lazy Bones" was connected to the television set by a wire. To improve the cumbersome setup, a wireless remote control called "Flashmatic" was developed in 1955 which worked by shining a beam of light onto a photoelectric cell. Unfortunately, the cells did not distinguish between light from the remote and light from other sources and the Flashmatic also required that the remote control be pointed very accurately at the receiver.

In 1956 Robert Adler developed "Zenith Space Command", a wireless remote.[4] It was mechanical and used ultrasound to change the channel and volume. When the user pushed a button on the remote control it clicked and struck a bar, hence the term "clicker". Each bar emitted a different frequency and circuits in the television detected this noise. The invention of the transistor made possible cheaper electronic remotes that contained a piezoelectric crystal that was fed by an oscillating electric current at a frequency near or above the upper threshold of human hearing, though still audible to dogs. The receiver contained a microphone attached to a circuit that was tuned to the same frequency. Some problems with this method were that the receiver could be triggered accidentally by naturally occurring noises, and some people, especially young women, could hear the piercing ultrasonic signals. There was even a noted incident in which a toy xylophone changed the channels on these types of TVs since some of the overtones from the xylophone matched the remote's ultrasonic frequency.

remote controls

The impetus for a more complex type of television remote control came in the late 1970s with the development of the Ceefax teletext service by the BBC. Most commercial remote controls at that time had a limited number of functions, sometimes as few as three: next channel, previous channel, and volume/off. This type of control did not meet the needs of teletext sets where pages were identified with three-digit numbers. A remote control to select teletext pages would need buttons for each number from zero to nine, as well as other control functions, such as switching from text to picture, and the normal television controls of volume, station, brightness, colour intensity and so on. Early teletext sets used wired remote controls to select pages but the continuous use of the remote control required for teletext quickly indicated the need for a wireless device. So BBC engineers began talks with one or two television manufacturers which led to early prototypes in around 1977-78 that could control a much larger number of functions. ITT was one of the companies and later gave its name to the ITT protocol of infrared communication.