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Flipping marvellous!

Hard, now, to believe that there was a time, before an American called Eugene Polley invented the TV remote control, when people, through sheer laziness, would watch the same channel all evening - unless they had a broom handle or snooker cue to hand they could use to poke the channel-changer on the front of the TV set.

Before Polley, who died in Chicago last week, invented the first remote control in 1955, families' viewing habits were dictated by the least lazy person in the room. The result was that people would stay tuned to the dullest shows through being too idle to cross the floor to change channels.

If the TV was too loud, viewers would muffle the sound by stuffing newspaper in their ears rather than rise from the sofa to adjust the volume knob.

The remote brought liberation, enabling viewers to address TV schedules the way a hunter-gatherer address the challenge of finding food to take home to the family.

We became a race of flippers, ever alert to the threat of boredom, ceaselessly switching stations in search of tastier TV fare; forever on the run, dodging commercials, repeats, rocky movies; occasionally seizing the wrong remote control and microwaving a pizza by mistake.

Today, by the evening's end we've watched 642 shows, all in tiny chunks, as if it might be illegal to watch any programme for more than 3.7 minutes.

So let's take a moment to sit down and give thanks for the long life and ingenuity of Polley, inventor of the TV remove control. Unless there's something better on another channel.

Herbert Grimes

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Jun 6, 2012
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