These days, you can find garage doors in Orlando, Chicago, Houston, Saskatchewan, and many other places throughout the whole world. Garage doors and openers began as part of the technological push toward button-based control and remote control for the home consumer.
Just as with cars, computers, and other everyday technological objects, there is a general shift from mechanical control to electronic control with button-laden console interfaces. The remote control is an extension of this idea, giving people electronic button control over short distances, such as with home garage doors and openers.
To fully understand these two distinct but related shifts in the evolution of technology of garage doors and openers, instant electronic control via switch or button and control at a distance should first be explored separately and then as together forming a cohesive system of electronic control that has become an everyday part of our lives.
One of the consequences of the spread of electronic technology is that processes which were once mechanical can now be operated by electronic switches. The process by which the control of technology moves from an interface between the body and the mechanism (for example, a garage door that one must lift with one’s own strength) to a switch or button that brings control specifically to the hand (for example, the case of electric garage doors and openers) does not have a specific name. That may be due to our tendency to see the world in terms of product as opposed to process. For our purposes, we can refer to it as part of the larger trend of electrification that began around the turn of the 20th century.
Electrification then led to not only control via the button, but also control at a distance. The electronic remote control is a device that is in use now more than ever, and became a mainstay in the modern home quickly after it was released into the public. The remote control uses consumer infrared technology, which can be used for a variety of tasks, including the short range, line-of-sight, broadcast of information and commands.
Remote controls are a perfect fit for operating an electronic garage door, in part because remote controls can be programmed to use a specific consumer infrared signal. In the early days of garage doors and openers, there were only a few in existence; therefore, there was not as much need for unique signals. Now, there are randomly computer generated codes that accompany the command signals. Remote controls are also an obvious fit because a driver can operate the garage door from within the vehicle and drive it into the garage.
The electronic switch and the remote control is a complex technological achievement with a rich material history that, in one specific application, allows a person to open a garage at a distance with the touch of a button.