JF sends me a ViewTex Filmstrip projector from the 1960's, sourced from Alpha Thrift, complete with its own brown leatherette suitcase. It’s heavy, because of its streamlined style metal shell. JF tells me it works, and has a spare lens and light bulb, necessary in the classroom in the 1960’s. Your teacher, in those days, was not an IT professional; a malfunction with such a machine brought many groans from the class. When JF brought this machine into my office, the dusty electronic smell, combined with the aroma of its rubber feet, and that special machine oil fragrance, brought me back to my classroom.
The image in the classroom has a quiet history, and thinking of this bought back the memory of my first boyfriend, Jim K, a proud member of the Deerfield AV club. He and the other nerdy guys in the AV Club had the special dispensation to skip class time to fetch the overhead projector, a journey in which the boys might lollygag around the halls on the way, without the hall monitor’s study hall penalty for loitering.
The manufacturer of the overhead projector was 3M: our school had about 20 of these massive beasts in a special closet that smelled of electronics. Jim, and the other short-sleeved AV guys, commandeered these beasts down the linoleum of the halls; we had a reprieve from a boring hour of looking at the teacher, (hallelujah) once the machine was geared up.
In the early 1960’s, an inventor, Roger Appeldorn, pioneered that special overhead projection machine from which a teacher could write the features of the lesson on clear plastic. Remember the smell of overheated lamps with hot plastic? Remember that smell, and you’ll remember the overhead projector, especially if you were one of the smart kids who sat in the front row in the 1970’s.
JF’s devise is earlier. The success of film in the classroom was predicted by none other than Thomas Edison, who said, “It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture. Our school system will be completely changed inside of ten years.” Edison believed the image would replace the book, and he was right; we have seen the procession of videocassettes, DVD’s, and Blue Rays, not to mention a screen in every pocket, into our classrooms.
JF’s machine is not a film projector: that was larger, and was wheeled in for Hour Long Movies (boy, did we love those!): JF’s machine is a filmstrip projector, for short visual lessons, to accompany the teacher’s lesson plan. A film projection machine had a magic black knob: turn that, and the teacher paused the film, to enable class discussion. To do so, a special fan kept the film cool while the teacher talked. Once she starting talking, we all longed for the images to resume!
Remember Sex-Ed? These filmstrip projectors were used in classrooms for this purpose until the 1980’s, among other lessons, in tandem with the more stationary overhead projector used for those tedious math and science classes, and used, most dreadfully, for those English Classes, “graphing” sentence structure.
An invention for the classroom in the early 1980‘s overthrew the dominance of film strip projectors: the Cathode Ray Tube Data Projector, weighing more than 40lbs each. The machine sat on the teacher’s desk, grabbing an image from a computer or TV, shooting that image onto a screen. These clunkers were overthrown by the liquid Crystal Display Panels, and these in turn were replaced by the Digital Light Processors, which ruled the visual classroom of the 1990’s.
The DLP chip enabled the “three-D” projector to project two images at once: students wore special glasses: one type of eyeglasses in which each eyeglass had a special shutter for each image per eye, and another form of glasses, polarized, filtered the right image to each eye. DLP 3D ready projection was a leap forward, according to a major manufacturer, Texas Instruments.
How far classroom imaging had come from the Magic Lantern of the early 20th century, which projected glass slides with the aid of an oil lamp, (dangerously) lighting the process. And of course, slides remained a mainstay even when loaded in that Carousel in the 1970’s.
JF, you'll find a few collectors for these out there, but not many, as their original use is now obsolete. JF tells me he is going to re-purpose this machine into a slide show machine. The value is not much more than what he paid Alpha for it: $50.
Certified appraiser for estates, inheritances and trusts.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart's column appears every week in the Salon & Style section of the Santa Barbara News Press. Email her your questions and high-resolution photos at ElizabethAppraisals @ gmail.com
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