Anticipate This!™ | Patent and Trademark Law Blog

Press “mute” for a moment of silence.

Posted in General Commentary, Science and Technology by Jake Ward on February 17, 2007

Dr. Robert Adler, a prolific inventor best known as the co-inventor of the wireless remote control for TVs, died this week at the age of 93.

Dr. Adler’s six-decade career with Zenith Electronics began in 1941 when he joined Zenith’s research division after receiving his Ph.D. degree in physics from the University of Vienna in 1937. He was named associate director in 1952, VP in 1959, and VP and research director in 1963. He retired as research VP in 1979, and served Zenith as a technical consultant until 1999, when Zenith merged with LG Electronics.

In the mid-1950’s, Zenith had produced a wireless remote that was basically a flashlight pointed at photo cells located at the corners of the TV cabinet.  Unfortunately, the photo cells reacted to sunlight as well as the remote. Dr. Adler’s solution was for the remote to communicate with the TV by sound, not light.  Adler’s remote control unit itself was very simple and involved buttons that struck one of four aluminum rods inside the unit. The receiver in the TV interpreted the high-frequency tones generated by these rods as signaling channel-up, channel-down, sound on/off, or power on/off.  In the 1960s, Dr. Adler modified the remote control to use ultrasonic signals.

In his lifetime, Dr. Adler was granted 180 patents for electronic devices.  He had  U.S. Pat. Appl. No. 20070024599 publish on February 1 for his recent work on touch-screen technology.

For more information on Dr. Adler’s life and career, see this Wikipedia entry and the referenced articles.

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