This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

Where’s The Remote?


September 25, 1906:  Birth of Remote Control

In the presence of the King of Spain and before a great crowd, Leonardo Torres Quevedo successfully demonstrates the invention of the Telekino in the port of Bilbao, guiding a boat from the shore, in what is considered the birth of the remote control.


In 1903, Torres presented the Telekino at the Paris Academy of Science, making an experimental demonstration. In the same year, he obtained a patent in France, Spain, Great Britain, and the United States.


The Telekino consisted of a robot that executed commands transmitted by electromagnetic waves. It constituted the world’s second publicly demonstrated apparatus for radio control, after Nikola Tesla’s Patented “Teleautomaton”, and was a pioneer in the field of remote control.

Detail of Telekino

Detail of Telekino

In 1906, in the presence of the king and before a great crowd, Torres successfully demonstrated the invention in the port of Bilbao, guiding a boat from the shore.

Calculators, Air Ships, Cable Cars . . . and First Computer Game


Torres built a whole series of analogue calculating machines, all mechanical. These machines used certain elements known as arithmophores which consisted of a moving part and an index that made it possible to read the quantity according to the position shown thereon. The aforesaid moving part was a graduated disk or a drum turning on an axis.

Torres' algebraic machine from 1893

Torres’ algebraic machine from 1893

Torres Quevedo demonstrated in 1914 and 1920, that all of the cogwheel functions of a calculating machine could be implemented using electromechanical parts. His 1914 analytical machine used a small memory built with electromagnets; his 1920 machine, built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the invention of the arithmometer, used a typewriter to receive its commands and print its results.

Air Ship

In 1902, Leonardo Torres Quevedo presented to the Science Academies of Madrid and Paris the project of a new type of dirigible that would solve the serious problem of suspending the gondola by including an internal frame of flexible cables that would give the airship rigidity by way of interior pressure.


In 1918, Torres designed, in collaboration with the engineer Emilio Herrera Linares, a transatlantic dirigible, which was named Hispania, aiming to claim the honor of the first transatlantic flight for Spain

Cable Car

Torres’s experimentation in the area of cableways and cable cars began very early during his residence in the town of his birth, Molledo. There, in 1887, he constructed the first cableway to span a depression of some 40 metres. The cableway was some 200 metres across and was pulled by a pair of cows, with one log seat.

Torres' Aero car which is still operational today

Torres’ Aero car which is still operational today

In 1907, Torres constructed the first cableway suitable for the public transportation of people, in Monte Ulía in San Sebastián.

Chess Automaton

In early 1910, Torres began to construct a chess automaton he dubbed El Ajedrecista (The Chessplayer) that was able to automatically play a king and rook endgame against king from any position, without any human intervention.



This device was first publicly demonstrated in Paris in 1914, and is considered the world’s first computer game. Mechanical arms moved the pieces in the prototype, but by 1920, electromagnets under the board were employed for this task.



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