The Overhead Door Corporation, now based in Lewisville, Texas, claim their founder, a certain C. G. Johnson based in Hartford City, Indiana invented the ‘upward lifting garage door’ in 1921 and the electric garage door opener in 1926. There is very little information about the mechanism and quite what kind of automatic system these early doors used, but as this was around the time that the use of motor vehicles was becoming widespread, it is very likely that this would have been an appropriate time for the development of garage doors and automatic devices.
In 1962, the Bolton Gate Company based in Bolton, UK was marketing their ‘Drivin’ automatic garage door operating unit which would have been widely available.
The fixed code systems were gradually replaced with ‘rolling code’ technology during the 1990’s. Rolling code systems cycle through digital codes based on algorithms. This practically illuminates the possibility of code eavesdropping and is a much more secure system. Codes are also now transmitted using encryption systems making it virtually impossible to ‘hack’ the radio system.
Garage door operators have used a number of designs and devices to transfer power from the motor to move the garage door, including screw and chain drive systems. These can be noisy and messy, even dropping grease and dirt onto the garage floor and vehicles below the drive mechanism. Drive and screw mechanisms are still in operation today but the more recent and higher end operators tend to use ‘belt drive’ systems. These utilise an extremely strong fabric belt, usually reinforced with materials such as Kevlar, to drive the door movement. They are much more durable and quiet in operation. They also require much less maintenance.
Garage door technology has come a long way since the early devices. Safety mechanisms are much more sensitive and the security is far superior. Garage door operators can now be activated with products such as digital key transponders and biometric finger print scanners. They can even be controlled over the internet and by mobile phone systems. Garage door operator motors are now digitally controlled and use servo systems allowing for precise control of speed and sensitivity.
View the article on the Bolton Gate Comapny as a part of our Garage Door History series.