Why Are TV Remotes Sometimes Called “The Clicker”

Have you ever heard someone say, “pass me the clicker"?

The TV remote is older than you might think. You can thank Austrian-American inventor Robert Adler for sparing you the hassle of manually changing channels and making those laborious trips to the TV.

Adler invented the Zenith Space Command in 1956, which while it sounds like something Buzz Lightyear joined in high school, was the world’s first wireless remote.

Changing the Channel Was a Lot Louder Back Then

The first Zenith Space-Command television remote controller operated slightly differently than its modern counterparts. In fact, not only was it wireless, but it didn’t require batteries, because this neat little gadget used sounds to turn your TV set on/off, the volume up/down and change the channel (granted, there weren’t many channels).

You can see the Zenith Space Command in a 1972 commercial for the device featuring an unamused butler (we used a younger sibling to change the channel in our house) and the iconic clicking sound.

Where’s the “Clicker” Today?

The “clicker” stayed in demand for an impressive 25 years, but had its share of issues, like household noises such as rattling keys interfering with its operation, and its high-frequency sounds sometimes agitating the family’s four-legged members. Whoops.