It’s a day of mourning for every couch potato in America. The single greatest television companion (before the DVR) is the wireless remote control. Sadly its inventor, Eugene Polley, died this past Sunday at age 96 of natural causes.

The visionary inventor who foresaw the laziness in humans who refuse to get off their chairs to walk to the TV set in order to change channels, devised the remote control when working at Zenith Electronics back in 1955. But the contraption it was back then was far from the designs we are used to these days. Back when Polley introduced the wireless remote, Zenith sold the device as the ‘Flash-Matic’ – - and it was shaped like a ray gun.

Although there were minor flaws (the light from the remote mixed with daylight would cause inadvertent channel changes), infra-red technology evolved none the less. Polley’s other creations include the push-button radio and the video disc, the predecessor of the DVD. Polley was honored with an Emmy Award in 1997 for his contributions to television technology. As for the rest of us, we honor Polley with our remotes held high… wait, just need to find it first.

[Via USA Today]