When he died last week, at the age of 96, American inventor Eugene Polley left a legacy surely unequalled, writes Pat Veltkamp Smith in And Another Thing.
His remote-control device, invented to help the elderly and disabled enjoy the box, must have led to more marital disharmony than anything you can think of, more weight gain too.
Now we don't want to speak ill of the dead and we won't but can anyone recall any device so destructive of family peace, its use so selfish, the outcome so inevitably leading to allegations and recriminations?
The thing is, there's only one clicker with each telly and so only one person decides what's showing and rarely can that person leave the box on one channel.
It is not that they don't like what they see, it is rather that there is feeling there is more, that there is something different so let's see if it is maybe better or, like grass, greener.
Right now, inexplicably, we are three and the third is like the first (note I place myself modestly second), male.
Such people see the remote as an extension of themselves, of their own arm as it were.
If it is tucked away, perhaps under a cushion, the arm waves around, the hand clutching anxiously at something, anything, even a throat, to enable its grasp to regain control.
Older guys simply change whatever channel is on for another, preferably one with a boot or a ball in it.
Younger people just surf, relentlessly moving through the numbers like card players, deft not decisive.
You glance up, catch a quiz question, blink, think, and it is too late. That has gone and already you are out of tune with the next.
Mr Polley, an electronics engineer with 18 patents to his credit, counted the remote his greatest achievement, saw himself akin to the guy who created the flush toilet, blokes who gave something back to humanity.
Today we can hardly remember how it was before television came with a remote.
You got up, walked over and pushed something but that something isn't there now.
You can't change channels without the remote and with it you cannot stay on any one channel long enough to catch the drift.
In 1997 Eugene Polley was awarded an Emmy for his innovation.
How's about that?
- © Fairfax NZ News