First There was Tesla…

A few days ago Linda reminded me that the mute button on my tv remote is going to be my best friend for the next six weeks – until the election is over.

As a child, I was the remote control and the mute button, both in my own home and at my grandparents.  Luckily, turning the sound down didn’t come up very often back then, although my grandfather did like to switch channels during commercials.  Also luckily there were only 4 channels back then.

So I’d like to give a salute to Robert Adler and Eugene Polley, the recognized fathers of the remote control. Although there were a couple of earlier versions of the remote control, it was the Zenith Space Command that came out in 1956 that paved the way for future remotes.  Adler and Polley won an Emmy for this work!

Is there an inventor you’d like to canonize?

40 thoughts on “First There was Tesla…”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    Whoever the person at 3M was working with adhesives. The story is that Post-It notes were invented after someone there took a “substandard” glue, applied it to paper and, Voila, the Post-It.

    I Love Post-It’s. They are so useful.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. There must be others here who remember when the internet was just a bunch of still images. One afternoon I was pottering about on my computer when I found streaming video of a speech (a mighty dull speech). I was stunned by the potential of watching little movies on a computer. There was a boundless world of things that could be transmitted this way: musical performances, advertisements, TV shows, political speeches, pornography, movies, college lectures, athletic contests. It was like a door had opened–a door that never existed before–and a whole complex, confusing, exciting world lay on the other side to be explored.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I remember in the mid-90’s listening to someone’s computer play an audio file, some popular song that I can’t remember now. It sounded horrible, tinny and distorted. I couldn’t imagine why someone would want to listen to a song on a computer if it was going to sound like that.


  3. Donald Harney, co-inventor (he claimed) of the recess under scriber and my boss for many years. The scriber is a small hand tool used in fitting linoleum seams. Don had worked for Armstrong Flooring in the 1920s and 30s. Some of his early work was on US Navy vessels hence the term battleship linoleum, a very thick version of the linoleum “rugs” common for household use. What started as a phonograph needle driven through a wooden clothes pin, evolved into an open ended metal frame holding a needle which matched a small protrusion at the bottom of the frame. Two linoleum sheets are overlapped about one inch. That nob is pulled against the bottom sheet a the needle marks the top sheet with a fine line. Cut on that line, removing the excess and a perfect seam is made. On every job where he saw us using the under scriber, Don would inveriably let us know that he made 25 cents off every scriber sold. He owned Dakota Flooring in Mandan and Fargo and we worked on commercial projects all over the state. He was 75 years old when I first worked for him. He really never retired, and died at 104.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I don’t know if just one person came up with YouTube… I just finished reading The Music Shop (by Rachel Joyce), a book that was chock full of musical references from all genres – I would just bring them up on YouTube, and could then hear what the characters were talking about. Also VERY handy at choir and band practices…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i prefer a trackball. But everytime I have an IT guy in my office, they hate it and it’s amusing to me to watch the ‘nerds’ try to use the trackball.


  5. Jorge Luis Borges, Vannevar Bush, Ted Nelson: three men whose vision were key steps in the development of hypertext, one of the fundamental things that makes offline and online uses of text so powerful, basis of searching, for one thing.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Clyde that’s the reason today’s post is named the way it Is. In doing a little research for this post, I realized that Tesla was actually one of the first people to work on a remote control. Of course television hadn’t been invented yet.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I wondered when you were going to get back to Tesla…
          Saw a Tesla vehicle in Rochester the other day. Maybe the first one I’ve seen.


  6. And this is completely OT. I realized last night that we have some authors on the Trail whom I will always read when they come out with something new. Chris and Kay and Steve and Clyde. Are there others that I’m forgetting?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There isn’t one person, but the group effort of people who invented computerized lighting consoles get my blessings everytime I open a show and don’t have to depend on the operator to get that 24.5 second fade right.
    A skilled operator was HUGE and we held on to them tight. But they were rare…
    Anyone can do a 3 second fade. The 12 second fades were harder.

    I am very very fortunate to be getting a fancy smancy new lighting console at the college next month. Its got motorized faders and a touch screen. Plus Force Feedback encoders.
    I’m beyond excited.
    I’ll be impossible to live with.
    Bids are still out and paperwork needs to be done, but this is what I’m expecting:

    Tractors sure are nice. The comfort of modern tractors can’t be underestimated.
    how about the microwave oven?
    Cordless tools are wonderful. And even better as the batteries improve.
    So many inventions are so nice!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries a popular cultural hero was “the inventor.” Thomas Edison was considered one, as was Alexander Bell. Young men were encouraged to study the lives of great inventors so they could do the same. That meme has faded out of sight now. Inventions now emerge from team efforts. Indeed, Edison himself used teams although he sometimes acted as the front man claiming the invention.

    Some people still cling to the old vision of the genius inventor, working alone, who discovers something exciting. People experienced with inventions will often admit that new concepts aren’t worth much to anyone. What counts is an effective team that can conceive of something, figure out how to make it and develop a marketing strategy for it.

    But I actually knew a guy who made a pile of money inventing something. An old friend invented the Nerf football (or, to be more accurate, he discovered a manufacturing process for making it). He made enough money to build an architect-designed home near a trout stream in Stillwater.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Ron Popeil. All those hours of late night TV he funded for me.
    Some of the Products that Ron Popeil Has Invented or Marketed
    • Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ
    • Showtime 6 Star Plus Knife Set
    • Veg-O-Matic
    • Chop-O-Matic
    • Dial-O-Matic
    • Popeil’s Pocket Fisherman
    • Mr. Microphone
    • Ronco Electric Food Dehydrator
    • Ronco Giant 10-Tray Food Dehydrator
    • GLH Formula #9
    • Popeil’s Pasta & Sausage Maker
    • Ronco Grip Spatula
    • Ronco Flip-It
    • Smokeless Ashtray
    • Inside the Eggshell Egg Scrambler
    • CleanAire Machine
    • Ronco Seal-A-Meal
    • Buttoneer
    • Rhinestone & Stud Setter
    • Bottle & Jar Cutter
    • Miracle Broom
    • Miracle Brush
    • Pottery Wheel
    • Ornamental Ice

    • Bagel Cutter
    • Mince-O-Matic
    • Auto-Cup
    • Door Saver
    • Back Relief – Vibrating Back Massage Air Cushion
    • Battery Tester
    • Candle Making Kit
    • Drain Buster
    • Cellutrol
    • Feather Touch Knives
    • Glass Froster
    • Hav-A-Maid Mop
    • Instant Shine
    • Kitchen Magician
    • Mr. Dentist
    • Record Vacuum
    • Roller Measure
    • Salad Washer & Dryer
    • Over 50 “Top 20 Hits” Record Albums
    • Speed Tufting Kit
    • Whip-O-Matic
    • Ronco Spray Gun
    • Splatter Screen
    • Crepe Kit

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Back in the beginning of my freelance days, I had a gig writing those sorts of commercials—not for Ronco but for KTel. They were mostly music collections. Terrible or not, you kind of have to stick to the established format.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I do t think they call for creativity. I had a student who had the betel woodaway. He showed more than a dozen uses in less than 35 seconds.


  10. I got along without a remote control on the TV until the 21st century. My old Panasonic TV did not have one. So I just got up and changed the channel manually. Didn’t have a mute button.

    I’m pretty fond of the mute button now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The TV I grew spent my teenage years with was a small countertop one. The channel knob had broken off and we used pliers to turn the selector. Course it only went from, what, 2-13 + the UHF mark? And we only got channel 3, 6 and 10. So you knew from the number of clicks and snow what channel you were on.

      Our TV antenna rotor died this summer.
      (Cheers to Channel Master and the TV antenna rotor!)
      I know a kid that installs antennas, so he came out and we took down the one giant old antenna and rotor and he put up 4 small new fancy ones. We get all the old stations plus a couple new ones.
      The sacrifices we make for living down in a valley. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.