Hit or Miss
Hit or Miss: The Remote Control
Up until 1960 remote controls on radios and TVs had been at best sporadic in the UK - never lasting on any particular model more than one season. The public had not accepted the idea, which was strange considering the convenience that it offered. So you tell me, Hit or Miss?
Before world war II, Murphy introduced a radio with motor-driven tuning and an optional remote control. It allowed station selection and volume control. The connecting lead took the odd form of a six-inch wide band, which would fit flush under a carpet and could also be stored inside the radio. It could be withdrawn by pressing a button which would wind up the cable when not in use. There was also a Philco radio that used a remote control that could be used anywhere in the house. Rather than a cable it used a sophisticated inductive system to communicate to the radio. Both of these ideas failed as the price of the option was so high (nearly as much as the radio itself).
One company tried to offer a general solution by use of a flexible mechanical control using a rubber cap that fitted on the knobs of a standard radio! This was never a success. There were continued isolated tries at TV remote controls for volume, brightness, on/off and channel selection but not one control that combined all of these functions. Such controls were only attractive to the elderly, infirm or bed-ridden.
A new push was being seen in models with basic remote controls for TVs. Channel switching remotes were always going to be very expensive as it required the TV to have a motor tuning system (like the Ultra Bermuda range). Brightness, volume and on/off controls were a little less sophisticated. However, the on/off control was not as simple as would first appear.
The On/Off Problem
It is easy to see how a cordless remote control could switch a TV off by using a motor to switch off the set; but with no power how could it be switched on? Corded systems had an advantage (see the Sobell remote below) but it required a four-way cable system just to serve the mains power to the switch. Because the remote control contained switches at mains potential, precautions had to be taken to guard against damage and (potential) electric shock. Further objections from "housewives" about the trailing wires across the living room meant that remote controls were limited to a niche market.
The industry adopted ultrasonic remote controls (and the associated barking dog) as a cordless method of operation. Standby relay systems accommodated the "switch-on" problem. With the advent of LEDs in the late 1970's infrared remote controls finally made the whole idea cheaper and more reliable.
An advert from October 1961 showing the Ferranti Model T 1061 (at 70 gns). This set was a 19" TV finished in French Grey and sapele design and featured the new push-button Auto Tuner - selecting the channel of your choice without fiddle and fuss. An Armchair Programme Control was an optional extra for the "take-it-easy" viewer. The T 1061 was also designed to convert easily to 625-line transmission for the expected third programme.
Ferranti Radio &
This remote control from Sobell in 1960 fits comfortably in the hand,
the cable clearly visible on this photograph. The on/off switch is
located at the end, with the edgewise brightness control, then volume
control, behind it.
Available for as little as 2 gns, this remote carried mains voltage on an eight-way cable.
|This Murphy cordless ultrasonic remote control was released in the autumn of 1961. It was for use with their "Astra Range" 19-inch and 23-inch televisions. The Astronaut (model V659XS) 19-inch was finished in sapele and sycamore with motor-driven tuning. Priced at £60 10s 5d plus £22 8s 7d purchase tax. The Astraluxe console (V683XDS) was finished in rosewood and satin silver trim and included an FM radio. Priced at £101 2s 6d plus £37 9s 6d purchase tax. This "Satellite" remote control, with one button for channel change and one for sound muting, was available for an extra 3 gns. The suffix "X" on the model numbers meant 625-line ready, whilst the "S" denoted compatibility with the remote control.|