Remote Control: A Bit of History to Get You Started

Controlling an object or an activity from a distance — It’s a wonderful power to possess, delivered by technology developed in the past sixty years. The freedom of dispensing with wires to connect the controller to a moving object followed from early television remote control. During the 1950s and 1960s, television viewers were able to change channels using what was commonly known as ultrasonic tones. Some of the earliest TV models even used a flashlight device to make these changes.

Convenience, of course, is the word when this technology was used to operate a television set, a DVD player or another electronic item. You might also say that operating a small airplane, car or truck without wires is also very convenient. But there’s more to the matter than not having to stay within a few feet of the object you’re controlling. The ability to make the object move forward, backward, turn and even flip takes remote control to a completely new level and now remote control toys performing an important role in children’s education .

Early Days

Homeowners commonly used RC technology for television and garage-door openers through the late 1970s. But the signal method changed gradually to infrared, with digitally-coded pulses to turn the TV on, to increase or decrease loudness, change channels etc. This same technology was excellent for setting temperature and fan speed on remote control thermostats in home or business. Eventually, the same method was used for a wide variety of purposes, with the remote control code and the device being specific to the product. However, manufacturers eventually offered universal remotes, which can emulate devices of major brands when the code is set manually.

Serious changes have taken place in controlling remote objects, with a lot of emphasis on the Bluetooth connectivity method, voice control and motion-sensors. But the array of devices and technologies today have come a long way since the first activity in the late 1800s. According to some histories, a British physicist changed the direction of a beam of light, with an electromagnetic wave as part of the process. The technology improved and advanced with radio pioneers such as Marconi.


One of the most under-rated individuals in the field of science, Nikola Tesla, filed a patent just a couple of years before the 20th century began (1898). His process focused on the mechanism for controlling a moving vehicle. He was able to demonstrate this technology with a radio-controlled boat in an exhibition at Madison Square Garden. Advances continued with the first decade of the 20th century when an inventor and scientist named Quevedo received patent approval in several countries. This step was a key in making Tesla’s remote control operation principles more like those of the modern products like remote control cars, trucks, airplanes and many more toys available at Top Race .

Financing held back progress for years, until the first remote control model plane took to the air in 1932. This was soon adapted to military use during WWII, with army and scientists in Germany taking the lead. During this decade, a number of manufacturers began to offer remote control technology, with some still using wire connection. One was battery operated — a radio transmitter using low frequency. Because it used pulse-count modulation, it is considered by most to be the first true digital technology.

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