A sad, sad day last week and I am not talking about the demise of New South Wales in State of Origin I… again. No, this is far more serious as my dismay relates to a person who has had a profound impact on my entire life, from my formative years back in the Old Dart right through to this very day. Possibly without knowing, you too will have come across and used the object of his unparalleled, never to be eclipsed genius and his remarkably prescient invention. The sad day was Thursday, May 24th when Eugene Polley passed away at the tender age of 96. In 1955 Polley invented the world’s first wireless remote control – the Flash matic, a ray gun style, light sensitive device that changed channels and turned sound up and down. In that one instant of brilliance the remote control ascended to the Pantheon where it now resides alongside the esky, bottled beer, home delivered pizza and of course the Jason recliner. Like many a whiz kid, Polley was a prophet far ahead of his time and it took many years for broadcast technology to catch up. Once live sport in glorious techicolour came into being his device came into its own. Gadget obsessed Gen Zers may not appreciate that once upon a time the athletically challenged actually had to raise tortured bodies from the couch and walk to the tv to change channels. But thanks to Polley people can now spend entire weekends vicariously consuming sport from the cosy, comfy confines of a couch. Zapping once happened only when you touched a static charged cushion rather than maniacally switching from channel to channel, code to code, checking scores and avoiding interminable adverts. This was once impossible without strenuous, energy sapping physical activity unless of course a young, still compliant child was in the vicinity. The do gooders and doomsayers point to Polley as the harbinger for obesity, slothfulness and almightly marital arguments – heresy I say! Speaking of his invention he once told journalists “it makes me think maybe my life wasn’t wasted at all”. Far from it Mr Polley, the world of sport salutes you.
This post first appeared as Monday’s Expert in the Northern Star on May 28th