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. With the Telekino, Torres-Quevedo laid down modern wireless remote-control operation principles 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, 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, called "Lazy Bones", was connected to the television by a wire. A wireless remote control, the "Flashmatic", was developed in 1955 by Eugene Polley. It worked by shining a beam of light onto a photoelectric cell, but the cell did not distinguish between light from the remote and light from other sources. The Flashmatic also had to be pointed very precisely at the receiver in order to work.
The Zenith Space Commander Six hundred remote control
In 1956, Robert Adler developed "Zenith Space Command", a wireless remote. 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 sound. 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 could hear the piercing ultrasonic signals. There was an incident in which a toy xylophone changed the channels on such sets because some of the overtones from the xylophone matched the remote's ultrasonic frequency.
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 numeral from zero to nine, as well as other control functions, such as switching from text to picture, and the normal television controls of volume, channel, brightness, colour intensity, etc. 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 1977–1978 that could control many more functions. ITT was one of the companies and later gave its name to the ITT protocol of infrared communication.
In 1980, a Canadian company, Viewstar, Inc., was formed by engineer Paul Hrivnak and started producing a cable TV converter with an infrared remote control. The product was sold through Philips for approximately $190 CAD. At the time the most popular remote control was the Starcom of Jerrold (a division of General Instruments) which used 40-kHz sound to change channels. The Viewstar converter was an immediate success, the millionth converter being sold on March 21, 1985, with 1.6 million sold by 1989.
In 2006, Hillcrest Labs introduced the Loop pointer, a remote control that used Hillcrest's Freespace motion control technology to allow users to control their televisions with natural gestures. The Loop had just four buttons and a scroll wheel. Freespace-enabled remote controls use radio waves to communicate with a USB antenna connected to a computer that is also connected to the television, so they do not need to be pointed at the PC, or even have a direct line of sight.
Some television manufacturers now include Bluetooth remotes to control the television without requiring line of sight, overcoming the limited range in IR-based remotes. -Wikipedia