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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Keeping fit despite a remote control

I’d like to pay tribute to two men who had a huge influence on my formative years.

One was a bike designer who invented the magnificent Chopper, the other an electronic genius who created the TV remote control.

I got a Raleigh Chopper for my 10th birthday.

Bright yellow, small wheel at the front, big wheel at the back, long black seat with a white strap crossing over it, big horned handlebars and a gear lever in the middle.

It was given added cool by the reports that loads of children had been badly hurt by braking too hard and going flying through the handlebars.

There was some dispute about exactly how many youngsters were hurt and how serious their injuries were, but me and my mates were sure it was the most dangerous bike ever and tried our best to see just how bad it was.

I never went through the handlebars but I did fall off a few times performing wheel skids and soon found out it was a very heavy bike.

Apart from skids, it was great for giving your friends a ‘backie’.

The long seat could just about fit two skinny lads, another could sit on the wire shelf over the back wheel and a very small friend with high pain tolerance could sit on the frame by the gear lever.

Four was the most we managed and I couldn’t pedal far.

The Chopper made cycling cool, the bike has become an iconic symbol of the 1970s and today’s coolest kids still ride round on them.

I mention all this by way of a tribute to the man responsible for so much fun and an explosion in the sales of Airstrip plasters.

Alan Oakley, who came up with the classic design, has died.

Like most brilliant things, it was done on the back of an envelope in a spark of genius as he flew back from America in 1967.

A moment’s inspiration, but a lifetime of memories.

But perhaps the man who has influenced the lives and lifestyles of more than anyone else was Eugene Polley.

He invented the Flash-Matic TV remote in 1955.

So I don’t understand why we had to wait until 1981 before it made its way into our house.

It was so big that if there was no room on the sofa, you could sit on that instead.

I can actually remember having to get up out of my seat, walk a couple of paces, and push a button to choose one of the three stations on offer (we even had one telly where you had to turn a dial to find the station).

I used to sit just a foot away from the screen so I could quickly swap from the end of Scooby Doo to the start of Top Cat.

I’m not sure if Eugene would be happy to be remembered as the father of a billion couch potatoes.

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