There's Keystone in every Great invention

Remote Controls

November 17, 2020

There’s a Keystone in every great invention.

As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches in America, it is as good a time as any to reflect and take (turkey) stock on 2020. The coronavirus will most certainly have an effect on how Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday this year. Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to celebrate and give thanks with family and friends. Although many of us will not be able to have dinner with our family or neighbors, we can still give thanks in these troubling and difficult times. A special thank you to all of those essential workers in our communities that have sacrificed to make life feel just a little more normal. Thanks to our customers, network partners, and employees. And last but not least, thank you for the TV remote.

There are no better memories for many Americans than watching the Thanksgiving parade and flipping over to turn on (American) football before the Thanksgiving feast. The TV remote has been an integral part of the television experience since the proliferation of the television in the 1940s and ‘50s. As the TV became a center piece in the household for news and entertainment, it was only a matter of time for TV accessories to make their way into the living room.  

One of the first remote control models was the Garod Telezoom. Develop in 1948, the single button remote was connected to the TV by a wire and used to enlarge the picture on the screen.

The introduction of the modern TV remote was made in 1950 by Zenith Radio Corp. These early remotes were referred to as “lazy bones,” as they enabled users to adjust the picture and/or sound without leaving the comfort of the couch.

In 1955, a wireless remote control was developed by Eugene Polley. Known as the Flashmatic, the wireless remote operated by shining a beam of light precisely onto one of four photoelectric cells. The system was not without flaws, as the photoelectric cells could not distinguish between light from the remote and light from other sources.

Robert Adler created the Zenith Space Command wireless remote in 1956. Offering more dependable performance, the design used ultrasound to change the TV channel and volume. When a user pushed a button, the mechanical operation struck a bar and clicked. The bars emitted a ultrasonic harmonic frequency, that circuits within television detected. The receivers interpreted four different ultrasonic harmonic frequencies as either channel-up, channel-down, sound-on/off, and power-on/off. The mechanical sound of the bar operation made a distinct click sound, thus the nickname clicker.

In the early 1960’s, remotes featuring piezoelectric crystals were utilized. The receiver contained a microphone attached to a circuit that was tuned to the same frequency, which was just above the frequency for human hearing. A significant problem with this remote solution was that the receiver would be mistakenly prompted by naturally occurring noises. In addition, some people could hear the lower ultrasonic harmonics. This solution was discarded in 1970 with the introduction of color television in 1970.

With color TV came a more sophisticated digital remote controlthat used oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) memory. Digital remotes provided a more input options including brightness and color intensity.

However, it was the BBC’s introduction of the Ceefax Teletext service in 1973 that shaped remotes as we know them today. The Teletext service required remote controls that could input numbers. Teletext required buttons for each number from zero to nine, as well as other control functions including switching from text to picture, as well as the standard TV remote capabilities. Early Teletext remotes were wired, but they quickly became wireless.

In 1980, a Canadian company called Viewstar Inc. started producing a cable TV converter with an infrared remote control. Developed by engineer Paul Hrivnak, the Starcom Cable TV Converter remote control used 40-kHz sound to change channels. The remote was a massive success, with more than 1.6 million sold by 1989.

By the early 2000s, the number of consumer electronic devices in homes greatly increased, along with the number of remotes control. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, an average US home has four remotes. The introduction of the universal remote aimed to simplify control of electronic devices into one easy to use remote.

As cell phones have evolved into smart devices, they too can now control electronic devices including smart TVs, stereos and more.  

Keystone Products Give You Control

A wide range of Keystone products can be found in traditional remote controls, as well as modern smart phones used as remotes. This includes  Battery Clips, Contacts & Holders, LED Lens Caps and SpacersPCB test points and terminals;  and more.

We at Keystone wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday. To our friends around the world, our best wishes as you celebrated Guy Fawkes Day (England), El Día de la Tradición (Argentina), Narrentag (Germany, Switzerland and Austria), Shichi-Go-San (Japan), and Bon Um Touk (Cambodia).