Zenith Electronics, his ex-employer, has stated that Eugene Polley passed away of natural causes on Sunday at a Chicago hospital.
His 1955 invention, Flash-Matic, pointed a beam of light at photo cells on each corner of the TV, turning it off and on and changing the channels.
Born in Chicago in 1915, Polley began his engineering career in 1935. He worked at Zenith for 47 years, earning 18 US patents.
His genius invention was a luxury add-on in the days before hundreds of cable television channels but, because the Flash-Matic used light to operate the television, it was temperamental and other lights could interfere with its operation.
It was then followed by sonic-controlled remotes and then infrared and radio frequency models we are more familiar with today.
Before Polley’s invention, Zenith’s first remote was connected to the television by a wire cord – I actually had a VHS video player which was also remoted in that way!
Polley was rightly proud of his invention.
According to a Zenith spokesman “He was a proud owner of a flat-screen TV and modern remote,” Mr Taylor added. “He always kept his original remote control with him.”
Along with another Zenith engineer, Robert Adler, Polley was honoured in 1997 with an Emmy for his work.