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Zenith Space Command

Published: October 20, 2021
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Zenith is best known for the first practical wireless TV remote control, the Space Command, developed in 1956. A box advertising a remote control system often referred to as "Space Command Tuning". The Zenith remote, called the Space Command or Zenith Clicker, was an ultrasonic remote that used hammers hitting aluminium rods within the remote. So no batteries required! These rods rang at certain frequencies – forcing the TV to turn on or off, changing the channel or muting or un-muting the sound. The television interpreted the various tones as commands to switch the channel up or down, mute the sound, or turn itself on or off. The RC was an immediate hit, despite increasing the cost of compatible Zenith sets by a staggering 30 percent!

zenith space command 600

History

The original television remote control was a wired version, released in 1950, that soon attracted complaints about an unsightly length of cable from the viewer's chair to the television receiver. Eugene F. McDonald, Zenith President and founder, ordered his engineers to develop a wireless version, but the use of radio waves was soon discounted due to poor interference rejection inherent in 1950s radio receivers. Lead engineer Robert Adler then suggested that ultrasonic sound be used as a trigger mechanism. The buttons struck the rods with a nearly whisper-quiet sound (it earned the nickname 'The Clicker') but it ushered in the era of ultrasound remotes – a method used well into the 1980s.

The frequencies used in the Space Command remote were too high for the human ear to pick up, though they could be discernible to animals such as dogs and cats. There was a story going round at Zenith that during testing, one female lab assistant flinched every time the device was tested, due to her sharp sense of hearing.

Sci-Fi

The Zenith Space Command looked like a Star Trek prop, with just four protruding buttons – worlds away from today's devices which might crowd several dozen onto a slim rectangle of plastic.

Space Command 600

The Space Command 600 was introduced in 1965 and this design was in use until the end of 1972. The 600 had an additional, distinctive feature, it could also adjust color hues.

The ultrasonic sound technology used in remote controles endured until the dawn of infrared in the 1980s.

Some models use the word Commander, for example the Space Commander 300.

Zenith Space Command value and price guide

What's your Zenith Space Command worth in 2021? Here are some recently sold items with prices.

Item Title Date Price
Zenith 1985 Wood Grain Zenith SA1927W 1985 Wood Grain Zenith SA1927W System 3 10/2021 $ 566.79
Zenith ZENITH SPACE COMMAND ZENITH SPACE COMMAND TELEVISION SET 19 07/2021 $ 340.07
Zenith Zenith Space Command SE2023W Zenith Space Command SE2023W 20 Color TV 09/2021 $ 209.66
Zenith Zenith Space Command 19 Color Zenith Space Command 19 Color TV Wood 08/2021 $ 192.70
Zenith Zenith Space Command 13 Color Zenith Space Command 13 Color CRT TV 09/2021 $ 170.01
no pictureSee all sold items on eBay for more prices12/2021-.--

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