The man who changed the course of how we watch television, Eugene Polley, died of natural causes Sunday at a hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. He was 95-years-old. Polley worked at Zenith Electronics from 1935 to 1982, which is where he invented the first wireless TV remote control - no longer considered a luxury but a necessity.
Polley, who demonstrated strong mechanical aptitude from an early age, worked his way through Zenith's stockroom to the engineering department where he spent most of his career. During World War II, Polley worked on radar advances for the US Department of Defense.
In 1955, he introduced the world the “Flash-Matic,” which changed channels on a TV set using a photo-cell activating flashlight-like device. For the first time ever, viewers could switch programs without getting up to turn the dial, inevitably ushering in the terms channel sufing and couch potato in to the American lexicon.
In 1997, he was honored for invention, sharing an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Polley was born in Chicago on November 29, 1915. He was a longtime resident of Lombard, Illinois, where was active in village government and is survived by his son Eugene J. Polley Jr., and grandson, Aaron, of San Diego, Calif. His wife, Blanche, and daughter, Joan Polley, preceded him in death.
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