The History of the R/C Toy [Infographic]

The History of the Radio Control Toy

Did you know that there were radio control planes before cars, and flying toys came before the r/c boats?  The radio controlled boat also beat cars to the race thanks to the father of R/C toys, Nicolas Tesla.  From stunt planes and classic trains to racing mini automobiles, R/C toys have delighted fans for more than 100 years.  The infographic below will help you discover the rich history of the radio and the remote control toy.

History of the Remote Control Toy


It all started with Allesandro Volta, Nikolas Tesla, Leonardo Torres Telekino and Heinrich Hertz.  Without these four brilliant minds, and many more, we would never have made it to the first radio controlled toys; and brought them to the performance levels they are at today.

  • Allesandro Volta – Created the science behind the battery
  • Heinrich Hertz  – Discovered how to transmit signals via electronic waves
  • Nikolas Tesla – Built the first R/C vehicle
  • Leonardo Torres Telekino – Figured out how to create the first radio/remote controlled device

How Did The R/C Toy Come to Pass?

To define how the radio controlled toy became a reality, you need to start with the science and inventions that built upon each other to create the technology.  Let’s start with how each of the major components were created.


  • 1791 – Volta tested the effects of iron on the muscles of frogs to create the science for the first battery.
  • 1800 – The first battery is created.
  • 1836 – Rechargeable batteries were invented.
  • 1899 – Nickel-cadmium batteries become reality for scientists.
  • 1949 – Alkaline-manganese batteries are developed to further enhance how we can harvest power.
  • 1991 – Sony creates the Lithium-ion battery which revolutionizes stored power.

Remote Controls:

  • 1898 – Nicolas Tesla features a remote control torpedo in NYC.  This is considered the very first radio controlled toy from a device.  His torpedo is still considered the first R/C boat.
  • 1903 – Leonardo Torres Quevedo unleashes an R/C robot.  This is also the first instance of a remote.
  • 1973 – Ultrasonic tones are used to transmit commands giving us the base for the technology that we use today.


  • 1864 – It was shown (mathematically) that electronic waves could be sent via free space.
  • 1885 – Heinrich Hertz showed the world how to transmit signals via these electronic waves.
  • 1891 – Navy ships added radios utilizing these discoveries.
  • 1894 – Guglielmo Macaroni built the first wireless telegraph system.
  • 1903 – The first R/C control is developed by Leonardo Torres Telekino.

When Were Remote Control Toys Invented

Now that you know how the pieces came together, lets go into the history of the actual toys and how they progressed into their modern day forms.


  • 1966 – The first R/C car becomes available to consumers in Europe. Lamborghini and Ferrari are the first models.
  • 1967 – Car kits start selling to consumers.
  • 1970’s – The US and UK begin getting their first models.
  • 1984 – Off-road models hit the market creating new ideas for competition.
  • 1986 – 4 wheel drive hits the R/C car world.
  • 2010 – Anki combines robotics, racing and smart devices for the future of R/C racing.


  • 1898 – The first R/C boat is revealed.
  • 1940’s – R/C boats are available to the public.


  • Late 1800’s – Hydrogen filled airships R/C airships were used as music hall acts.
  • 1917 – The first R/C controlled airship was used by Archibald Low as a bomb.
  • 1932 – The military launched the first R/C airplane.
  • 1937 – Big Guff takes flight giving birth to modern day R/C airplanes.
  • 1968 – Dr. Schluter builds the first R/C controlled helicopter.

Just for fun, here are two trivia tidbits about remote control toys you can use to stump your friends.

  • R/C airplanes and boats existed before R/C cars.
  • The battery was developed by testing metals on frog muscles.


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