20 March 2011

View-Master Model E

While fidgeting my way through work today, I decided to take a break to play with this piece of magic -

3-Dimension Viewer

It was a gift from my friend Joe; he told me that he had bought a bunch of them while he was living in Portland and at WK12. The first View-Master factory was in Oregon, so it makes sense that one might happen upon more of these than usual over there. He bought a few reel collections from eBay and wrapped them all up together. I hadn't looked through one of these in decades, and it blew me away. Super 3D! So cool. And they're all printed on Kodachrome.


View-Master reel packaging

I really felt like I was 5 years-old again when I was looking through all of them. The different layers of depth are so cool. And if I moved my head, the colors would get richer with the sunlight coming through my window. The pictures in the Boston collection I have feature tons of noise and stuff that must have been on the camera lens. My favorite ones are the Las Vegas and New York collections, though, since there are so many examples of neon signs, cars and architecture from the 60s (the MetLife PanAm building was the best). Very Catch Me If You Can. I kept wondering who in their right mind would put these things on eBay in the first place. Well, good for me I guess ;)

View-Master - hard to photograph
I kind of like that the images can't be photographed. Maybe you can tell this is from the NY reel.

So, this is how it works.
While a View-Master disk holds 14 film slides, these really are only seven pairs, making up the seven stereoscopic images; two film slides are viewed simultaneously, one for each eye, thus simulating binocular depth perception.
I just assumed View-Masters were always a children's toy, since I had a Fisher Price-looking, red version with yellow handle when I was a kid (I'm sure a lot of you did too*). But apparently the View-Master was invented by a guy in the photo postcard business, and a photographer. It was unveiled at the World's Fair in NY in 1939**, after which you could buy them at "photography shops, stationery stores, and scenic-attraction gift shops."

The Wikipedia page talks about the View-Master's evolution - having a popular phase in the U.S. military ("In the 1940s, the United States military recognized the potential for using View-Master products for personnel training, purchasing 100,000 viewers and nearly six million disks from 1942 to the end of World War II, in 1945"), and later morphing into a children's toy. Eventually, the scenic tourist attraction discs were phased out and everything moved into entertainment themes (movies, cartoons, toys, etc.). Look at the thing now. Jeez.

Check out this visual timeline/evolution of View-Master viewers; look at the Mickey Mouse shaped one! Amazing. Thanks for the inspiration, Joe ^^

* Ha, turns out they were Fisher-Price at one point (and still are now). The one I had as a kid is the Model L.
** Wow! I was lamenting the end of the World's Fairs to myself, figuring that communication technology made them unnecessary; but apparently there might be a version of the World's Fair in a few years!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...