This Day in History (25-Sep-1906) – The First Remote Control Is Demonstrated

Torres Quevedo became interested in science and technology from an early age.  In 1887 at the age of 35, he received his first patent—for a small funicular (transbordador). The most famous funiculars is the Whirlpool Aero Car over the Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada, installed in 1916 is still working at present without having any problem. Fascinated by aeronautics, he built an ultra light dirigible bolstered with a frame of flexible cables for rigidity. He needed a way to test his dirigibles without risking pilots’ lives. The solution turned out to be a radio controller. Lacking funds, Torres Quevedo first built a radio control for a tricycle. He created codes from the signals generated by a telegraph transmitter. He then built a receiver to read and respond to the signals, moving the tricycle forward or backward, or turning it. He called it the telekino. Telekino is the precursor to the modern-day TV clicker, key fob, and video game controller or the remote control.

Torres Quevedo presented the telekino at the Paris Academy of Science in 1903. He also applied for and obtained a patent in France, Spain, Great Britain, and the United States. On 25th September1906, in the presence of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and a crowd of awed spectators, Torres Quevedo successfully demonstrated the telekino in the port of Bilbao, where he controlled a vessel with eight people aboard, from a distance of two kilometres. Recognising the potential of his invention, Torres Quevedo then sought funds from the Spanish government to develop the device to control dirigibles as well as underwater torpedoes, both his inventions. He was denied the funds and ultimately abandoned his work on the telekino.

In 1911 Torres made and successfully demonstrated a chess-playing automaton for the end game of king and rook against king. This chess automaton was fully automatic, with electrical sensing of the pieces on the board and what was in effect a mechanical arm to move its own pieces. In 1916 King Alfonso XIII bestowed the Academy of Science’s Echegaray Medal upon him. In 1920 Torres demonstrated a second chess automaton, which used magnets underneath the board to move the pieces. A number of his other inventions, still exist and are still operational.



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