Did televisions with wired controllers ever exist?

I think the thread title sums up the question quite well but I will clarify what I mean just to make sure we are on the same page. I am wondering whether there were ever televisions produced that had a remote control on a cord attached to the television. Such a step seems logical to me, toy cars used to be controlled by simple controllers attached to the cars by a wire, which led to children chasing the cars around the streets in an attempt to stop the wire becoming taut. Of course this system was superseded by the infra red remote controls we see controlling the toy cars and televisions today. So, did televisions used to controlled by devices attached by a wire? For the life of me I can’t find any evidence of this occuring but it seems so simple and obvious that I find it hard to imagine it didn’t happen.

I distinctly remember my family owning a VCR with a wired controller when I was a child. That doesn’t necessarily speak towards your question, but it may be more indirect evidence.

I used to have a wired controller, but it was connected to a converter which was, in turn, connected to the TV, so maybe that doesn’t count.

Yes, my primary school had one. Mid-1980s.

If you watch the movie The Apartment from 1960, you will see Jack Lemmon using one, IIRC.

The earliest type of remote control was nothing more than a squeeze bulb which pneumatically cycled the rotary channel knob from 2-13. Turning the TV on/off and adjusting volume still had to be done at the set. This was circa 1960.

When I was a kid we had a cable television provider in Methuen, MA (who’s name I forget now) that came out and installed a set top box with a long cable that terminated in a channel selector. The TV was set to channel 3 (via the dial) and then the 99 channels were selected by the person in possession of the "remote” or “slider” as we used to call it. It had a backlit plastic number display from 2 to 99 and a plastic indicator that you slid the length of the remote. Made channel surfing really fast.
I always got yelled at for chewing on the cord during suspenseful shows, which is how I remember the cord so well.

There were many VCRs with corded controllers, as well as other tape decks, but not TV that I remember.


I’m old enough to remember the days when TVs had actual mechanical dials to change the channels. Hell, I’m even old enough to remember when TVs came with only twelve channels (yes, VHF-only, no UHF). I remember that my dad once built his own wired remote TV volume control and he soldered the ends of the wires onto the speaker terminals of the TV.

The first VCR that I owned had a wired remote. It had all the usual functions (play, stop, fast foward, rewind, record) on the remote, it just had a wire running from the remote to the VCR. So I can absolutely attest that those existed.

But I don’t remember ever seeing a TV with a wired remote. The first remote-controlled TV I ever saw was at the house of a rich friend. The remote was sonic, rather than infra-red. It had four really huge buttons (channel and volume up and down, I think) that mechanically (that’s right, no batteries in the remote) generated a sound pulse that the TV would pick up, as long as the remote was pointed directly at the TV.

Now you mention it, my memory might be of a video controlled in this way

Wired remote TV’s used to be common in hospital rooms ca. 1970.

I also saw the sonic version way before that. The remote WAS totally mechanical. The buttons worked a mechanism that struck a bar. As I recall the channel only went one direction, so if you overshot you had to go all the way back-round.

Have a look at the following web site which says:

It also has an picture of a 1950 Zenith newspaper ad for its new wired remote control.


Also I can remember as recently as 1976 one of my school chums had a new fangled colour TV that had a remote control. It was connected to the TV with a wire and only controled power on/off, channel up/down, and volume.

I just had a closer look at this page and noticed that below the Zenith wired remote ad there is another ad for a Zenith Wireless remote control from 1955.

I very distinctly remember seeing wired remote controlled TVs in stores, probably late 70s and early 80s.

My grandfather made his own wired “mute” button by connecting the speaker wires to a switch (on a long wire). I remember Al Jaffee of MAD Magazine suggested the same thing to mute commercials somewhat later.

I do remember wired cable channel changes, with about 30 pushbuttons to select channels. It made today’s channel surfing seem slow, since you could go from say 8 to 23 to 15 to 7 in the time it takes to punch four buttons.

Damn you, teela! I came in here to say that! (one of my favorite movies)

Our old Betamax had a remote with a wire attached.

Our first TV with remote was a wireless true “clicker” - it made a distinctive clicking noise (which I can still hear as plain as day) and looked like a rectangular hockey puck with big shiny buttons on it.

There was always the “lie down in front of the tv with no shoes on and use your feet to change the channel” remote. You gotta put Tinactin on the controls every once in a while, but worked pretty well.

I distinctly remember seeing old ads (circa 1930!) for these things connected to radios.

We also had a VCR with a wire on the remote, which was IIRC oddly small (the remote, not the VCR, which I’m sure was ginormous.) Our console TV at the same time (early 80’s) had the “real clicker” design as described above - it was very heavy and smelled oddly metallic, and it had two buttons which were really rocker switches, and pressing one of them straight in would toggle the power. Not that we ever used it, as we only had the Big Three and PBS.

As a small child I remember playing on the floor of my Grandfathers living room and he had one of the brand new cabinet TV’s with a remote like tthe one you’ve described. It was a faily large boxy thing with buttons you depressed to strike a bar which made a ping. The funny part was that when he got up from his chair, the keys in his pocket changed the channels. Whoa. That was probably over 40 years ago now.
As to the corded type, all I’ve ever seen was a corded VCR at a guys house once many years ago.