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Zenith Flash-Matic television remote control

The selling proposition of the first wireless remote control for televisions set was not so much that the user could switch the set on and off and change channels without getting out of the easy chairówired remotes could do thatóbut that it could mute the sound of the 'long, annoying' commercials. The founder and head of Zenith, Commander Eugene F McDonald Jr, had a dislike of commercials and thought that the advertising-supported business model would die out in favour of pay TV. The reference to 'no wires, no cords' was to differentiate this version from Zenith's earlier Lazy Bones wired remote control of 1950, which was reported to cause viewers to trip over the connecting cable.
        Such convenience came at a price, however. The cheapest non-remote Zenith sets had a list price of $149.95. The remote-control sets cost upwards of an extra $250.00. To put that into context, the average weekly wage in the US in 1955 was around $76, making the cost of a basic set equivalent to two weeks' average earnings; a remote-control set cost nearly six weeks' earnings.


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Page updated 28 July 2008