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Robert Adler, TV Remote Inventor, Dies At 93

Dr. Robert Adler, co-inventor of the wireless remote control for television among many accomplishments and contributions to the consumer electronics industry, died of heart failure, here, Feb. 15. He was 93.

Dr. Adler was responsible for a large number of significant scientific contributions to the electronics industry, including landmark inventions in the field of consumer products and in sophisticated specialized communications equipment.

A prolific inventor with a seemingly never-ending thirst for knowledge, his pioneering developments spanned from the golden age of television into the high-definition era, earning him more than 180 U.S. patents. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published his most recent patent application, for advances in touch-screen technology, on Feb. 1.

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.

“Bob Adler was an unparalleled technical contributor, leader, adviser and teacher,” said Jerry K. Pearlman, retired Zenith chairman and CEO, who knew Dr. Adler for 35 years. “His gifts and passions were many, his mentoring matchless and his ego totally nonexistent.”

In the consumer electronics field, Dr. Adler has been widely recognized as the co-inventor (with fellow Zenith engineer Eugene Polley) of the wireless TV remote. Dr. Adler’s “Space Command” ultrasonic remote control for TV sets was introduced by Zenith in 1956. He received the 1958 Outstanding Technical Achievement Award of the Institute of Radio Engineers (now the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE) for his “original work on ultrasonic remote controls” for television.

The electron beam parametric amplifier, developed in 1958 by Dr. Adler jointly with Glen Wade, then of Stanford University, was at the time the most sensitive practical amplifier for ultra high-frequency (UHF) signals. It was used by radio astronomers in the United States and abroad, and by the U.S. Air Force for long-range missile detection.

Adler also pioneered the use of SAW technology for touch screens. Touch screens employing principles he originated are now in widespread use in airport kiosks and in museums such as the Holocaust Museum in Washington, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the San Jose (Calif.) Technology Museum, among others. Since the early 1990s, as a consultant to Elo TouchSystems, Adler actively contributed to the commercialization and further innovation of his SAW touch-screen invention.

Adler received the 1967 Inventor-of-the-Year Award from George Washington University’s Patent, Trademark and Copyright Research Institute for his inventions in the field of electronic products, devices and systems used in aircraft communications, radar, TV receivers and FM broadcasting.

He received the Consumer Electronics Outstanding Achievement Award in 1970 from the IEEE, among many from that organization over the years.

Together with Polley, he was honored in 1997 by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with an Emmy award for Zenith’s introduction of the first wireless TV remote controls 50 years ago. He was a charter inductee in the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame in 2000. Adler was a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

For more on Dr. Adler’s life and career, visit