(This Friday post was delayed by website glitches and my ineptitude).
Meet my Zenith Space Command 100 remote! I found this 1971 beauty at the Depot Town flea market. It’s a beautiful little piece of design: I love the lettering, love the shape and heft, love that arrow and the pleasing turquoise button. Even the sound it makes is packajectic! (That’s a Smith family word, describing something that makes a perfect sound or has a perfect shape, like a perfect little package.) It only has one function: changing the channels.
I was going to record the sound it makes for your listening pleasure, but I found the video below which features the remote and its perfect little click. Watch it and learn more than you ever imagined about the Zenith 100 Space Command. (I learned you could also program the remote to turn the TV on and off by assigning that function to a channel number which didn’t broadcast in your area.) I was fascinated by the fact that the remote physically turned the channel dial on the TV. It must have seemed magic then… it still does to me. I can wrap my brain around transmitting digital signals to change channels as we do today but I can’t comprehend a little metallic click creating kinetic energy to move a plastic dial. Nowadays our TV remotes can change channels, tune the TV, switch to stereo, search for a favorite scene, go online, answer the telephone, start a face-to-face phone conversation… I wonder if today’s functionality will seem quaint to future generations? What else would people need or want a remote to do?!
Speaking of magic, you may wonder what I do with my Space Command 100, besides fondle and admire it. I imagine that it has the power to change things for me. When my kids were little and they experienced some unavoidable unfairness or hurt, they expected me to do something about it. Admitting to your kids that you are not all-powerful is one of those sad little milestones of parenting. It’s fun to feel like a superhero for a few years. What I told my kids when they requested supernatural assistance was this: I would fix the problem if I had a Mommy Wand, but sadly, I did not. Essentially, short of magic, there was nothing I could do except agree with them that something hurt or a situation stunk and help them pick up the pieces. For a while they hoped to someday procure a Mommy Wand for me, but then they grew up a little and realized magic is an illusion. By that time they were okay with the reality. I don’t think I was a jerk to let them believe in the Mommy Wand for a little while. I never said such a thing actually existed, they just optimistically filled in that blank. Sometimes all you need is a little hope to get through the rough spots.
That’s what the Zenith Space Command 100 does for me. I know there’s no magic wand or clicker that will finish a rough revision for me, or find my tax documentation, or relieve the pain that someone I love is feeling. But it’s nice hold it in my hand and imagine that such a power might exist, at least until I make peace with whatever reality I am resisting.
Interested in early remotes? Here are some other people who have thought a lot about them.
- Bill DeRouchey (of Push Click Touch — a cool experience design website)
- Allee Willis (of the delightfully titled and stocked website, Museum of Kitsch!)
And, the promised video. I love to find evidence of people digging deep into stuff they love.