Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Farewell to the creator of a great modern nuisance

"Any man's death diminishes me" so I will resist the temptation to say anything celebratory about the death yesterday of the creator of one of the two most annoying inventions of the 20th century.

Eugene Polley, the inventor of the television remote control, has died at the age of 96.

On the Today programme they suggested that if he had gone into the "Dragon's Den" with his proposal for the first TV remote when he first invented it in 1955, they would have laughed him off the show.

Oh, how I wish that that programme had been around at the time to do just that and kill the idea.

To be fair to Eugene Polly, the aspect of his invention which is such an absolutely infuriating nuisance is not so much the existence of the remote control as the fact that so few Televisions and similar items of equipment have a control panel on them any more. They all depend on the remote control.

With the result that when somebody, usually a small person, picks up the wretched remote and goes off with it, and then forgets where they've put the expletive-deleted thing, nobody can use the TV, or DVD player, or whatever until the remote has been found.

Four times the nuisance in the post digital world where some of your TV's require a set-top box, either because they are analogue or because you are using them with a satellite network or BT Vision, or because you might want to use a DVD or Blu-ray player, and every one of them has a remote which can all too easily get lost.

Mind you, of the inventions I wish had never been thought of, the TV remote is not the worst. That dubious privilege goes to the inventor of a device fitted to the steering wheel of cars which makes the indicator lights turn off when the wheel crosses the centre point in the other direction.

The feature is downright dangerous in circumstances which all too often arise. Unfortunately, if the road bends in one direction when one is about to manouver in the opposite direction, this stupid feature turns off your indicator signal, which either creates a hazard by cancelling an important signal to other road users, or creates a hazard by distracting the driver in the middle of a turn and requiring him or her to turn the indicator back on.

Where Eugene Polly's invention of the TV remote is a nuisance, this feature of most if not all modern cars is a downright menace.

Perhaps some day we will learn that some ideas can and should be dis-invented, or at least discontinued.

3 comments:

Jim said...

I can agree with the car indicator thingy. Not exactly clever.

However, the TV remote is possibly one of the finest inventions ever. Rest in Peace Mr Polley, and thanks for your input to aid human civilisation.

If you are looking for stupid inventions, then look no further than dynamo bike lights. See when is a cyclist at his/her most venerable? oh yeah, its when they stop at the traffic lights - and what happens??

Chris Whiteside said...

It's surprising how often one perso's nuisance can be another person's great invention.

But I entirely agree about the bike lights.

Steve said...

Nice post which Four times the nuisance in the post digital world where some of your TV's require a set-top box, either because they are analogue or because you are using them with a satellite network or BT Vision, or because you might want to use a DVD or Blu-ray player, and every one of them has a remote which can all too easily get lost.Thanks a lot for posting.