R.A.H. (againstathorn) wrote,


One of my fondest memories growing up as a kid was using a View-Master. You know what I'm referring to, those plastic handheld devices in which the user inserted a thin cardboard reel to advanced through a selection of tiny color transparencies. I loved toying around with those. Just looking inside a View-Master transported you to a special, solitary world of escape. Looking back, I think the experience of using one helped push me toward the visual arts and also gave me an appreciation for the aesthetics exclusive to film.

Passed down to me by my older brothers, I had both a red and orange View-Master Model G and a light brown Sawyer Model G, along with oodles of reel cards featuring stills of everything from old TV shows, Disney movies, and educational/sightseeing views. We also had a projector for viewing the reels, though of course it didn't supply the stereoscopic effect of the View-Master. Plus, as opposed to the View-Master, there was no way to read the captions on the physical reel while it was in the projector. For that information you needed to refer to the booklet which came along with that reel. What a hassle!

Another curious item in our household, passed down by my grandparents, was an old wooden Holmes stereoscope with a selection of heavy cardboard stereo cards. A majority of these cards were of exotic sites from throughout the world, taken from 19th century wet plate photographs. From a historical perspective, I always found these interesting, though not as captivating as the View-Master. Many of the cards had images which were were monochrome and beginning to fade. Still, the old-fashioned stereoscope represents an important part of our cultural heritage and marks another development in our visual understanding of our world.

I'm sure kids today wouldn't want to be bothered with this stuff, unless they were specifically interested in vintage entertainment. Then again, I'm pretty sure the View-Master was considered vintage when I was young, too. Who knows, maybe someday it'll experience a resurgence in popularity. Imagine a kid today refusing to go outside to play, but not so that he may devote hours upon hours to his X-Box but rather to take in stills from his favorite movies via an old-fashioned View-Master!

Eh ... I'm not counting my luck on that one. ;)
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