31 March 2009

Temps perdu

From a recent issue of The Economist, here's a report that yet another remnant of our childhood is about to disappear. Unless ... Mom and Dad, do you still have any old reels stashed somewhere with Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, etc?

I was surprised to read that View-Masters date from the 1939 World's Fair my father visited with four Schenectady cronies (one gets sick in the car on the way down, if I remember the saga correctly, all over another who has no change of clothes).* I had always assumed that, like so much other Fisher-Price plastic, they appeared in the 1950s.

*I was conflating two stories here. Dad was taken to the World's Fair by Harold Britten and his parents; the other trip to NYC was in May 1942, with Dick Marvin, Ben Jakobowski, Mike Stanco, and Eddie Rifenbark--surveying squad A from sophomore year at Union College (Dad still remembers that they all got As). They were celebrating their new engineering degrees--with cigars. Hence the accident, which Dick Marvin, the target, tried to disguise with a bottle of cheap perfume.

3D viewers

The final reel

Mar 12th 2009 | ST LOUIS
From The Economist print edition

Goodbye to the Grand Canyon in 3D

A PIECE of the American experience has faded away. Fisher-Price, the toy company that used to market them, has just eliminated almost all the View-Master titles that have been a staple of young lives for almost 70 years.

The boxy binocular-style viewers remain; but the circular reels that brought three-dimensional images of the world to millions have now been cut back to a handful of children’s titles. Long before the internet, or even before most people had colour televisions, View-Masters gave millions a full-colour, three-dimensional view of the world.

View-Masters were introduced at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and became an overnight sensation. During the second world war the armed forces produced training reels for identifying enemy and friendly aircraft and ships. After the war View-Masters became household items, as common as frozen food. Thousands of businesses promoted themselves using custom-made View-Master reels. Recently the University of Missouri football programme promoted its candidate for the Heisman trophy by giving away viewers moulded in the college colours and a reel of highlights from the season. Medical students used View-Master to study a 3D atlas of human anatomy. In all, more than 1.5 billion reels have been produced, every one of them to the same size and format, and usable in every model of viewer ever made.

The gutting of the View-Master comes just as 3D is experiencing a renaissance. Improved technology has made 3D films much easier to produce and view, allowing them to progress far beyond the gimmicky thrusting of objects into the audience seen in films briefly in vogue in the 1950s. The Jonas Brothers, the latest boy band for teenage girls, recently released a concert film in 3D and also appeared on a 3D magazine cover. Several commercials aired during the Super Bowl, the climax of the football season, were broadcast in 3D. George Lucas is said to be toying with the idea of re-releasing the “Star Wars” saga in a retrofitted 3D format; recent blockbusters, including “Kung Fu Panda” and “Beowulf” have appeared in 3D versions at special cinemas, with many more to come. But the experience of 3D in your hand, which the View-Master made possible, is now a thing of the past.

No comments:

Post a Comment