Flash Matic Tuning, a device to shut off long, boring commercials


Love this old ad for Zenith's early remote control, the "Flash Matic," which let you "shut off long, annoying commercials while picture remains on screen!" (a process that was eventually known as "muting"). I grew up with a Zenith TV that had the next generation of remotes, a little box with a cunning series of ultrasonic tuning-forks inside it that were struck by tiny hammers controlled by pushbuttons on the remote's face; we used to try to trick the receiver by jingling keys, sneezing, and rolling squeaky-wheeled coffee-tables around to get it to change the channel or up the volume.

This ad (and the other one that accompanies it at the link) are quite explicit about the primary use of remotes being to switch off ads -- call them the pop-up blocker of their day. It's no wonder that major rightsholder groups objected to remote controls when they were introduced, it's easy to imagine the forebear of today's NAB lobbyists explaining that the mute button was a form of theft, the Boston Strangler of the TV industry.