FIRST OPTICAL TOYS

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Prehistoric Era people were already trying to give expression to the essence of movement, by painting four pairs of legs on the images with which they decorated their caverns. After them, the ancient Egyptians and Greeks sequenced images with movements in wall decorations, as well as many other kinds of utensils.

1640 - THE MAGIC LANTERN

However, the first known serious attempt to project drawings in motion, on a screen, was not done until 1640, by the German Athanasius Kircher. The system was very rudimentary but effective; it consisted of several layers of movable glass slides, with images drawn on them which, when manipulated mechanically, gave movement to the characters.
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These are some examples of the results achieved with the magic lantern prototype.

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1824 "THE PERSISTENCE OF VISION"

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In 1824 the Englishman Peter Mark Roget, who arrived at the conclusión that “all movement could be broken down into a series of fixed images” discovered the principle of “the persistence of vision”. Thanks to this discovery, researchers in the second half of the nineteenth century dedicated themselves to creating artifacts that have been improved upon over the years.

1826- THE TAUMATROPE
John Ayrton Paris invented the Taumatrope. It was a disc with a different image on each side; one of them, the image of a bird and the other, the image of a cage. The disc was suspended between two strings which were twisted in such a way that when they were pulled tight, they made the disc turn at high speed, creating the optical illusion that the bird was inside the cage. Invention of the Taumatrope has also been attributed to John Herschel and Charles Babbage, amongst others, but Paris was the first to distribute it commercially.

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1832- THE PHENAKISTOSCOPE

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By Joseph Antoine Plateau (1832). It consisted of a series of drawings in continuous steps of motion on a disk that turned independently of another disk that had slots cut in it; looking through them caused the figures painted on the disk behind it to seem to move.

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1867- THE ZOETROPE

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Actually, the original inventor of the Zoetrope was the mathematician William George Horner (1786-1837), who created a device consisting of a roll of paper with drawings on it, which was placed inside a turning drum, perforated right around with slots, creating the impression of movement. He called his invention the Daedalum (Wheel of the Devil) but the mechanism was not popularized until 30 years later, when it was renamed the Zoetrope (Wheel of the Life), by William F. Lincoln, in the United States.

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1878- THE PRAXINOSCOPE

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Emile Reynaud patented the Praxiniscope, a device consisting of a system of mirrors, which reflected Zootrope images in a way that enabled a huge number of people to watch them at once.

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1891- THE KINETOSCOPE

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It was Thomas Alva Edison, the prestigious American inventor who (taking as a base all those earlier inventions) created the Kinetoscope, the device which is considered to be the first cinema machine. It consisted of a box through which a reel of photos were passed, at a rate of 46 images per second, and lit by an incandescent lamp; the spectator could see the show through a peephole. It was already being used in the last decade of the 19th century and soon became popular at carnivals, parties, and funfairs. Kinetoscope halls, which were coin-operated, appeared in New York around the same time.

In 1896, Edison shot The Kiss, amongst other movies. Though it was barely twenty seconds long, it was the first kiss in all of cinema history and it unleashed the rage of the moralists of the time.

1894- THE CINEMATOGRAPH

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The Lumière brothers (Louis and Auguste), intrigued by Edison´s Kinetoscope, developed an inventive combination of camera and projector, called the Cinematographe, which was patented in February of 1895. After some private presentations to scientific audiences, the Lumière brothers made their first open audience presentation of their movies on the 28th of December, 1895 – the date that most historians consider to be the birth of cinema.

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The Lumière brothers’ movies La Sortie des Usines and L´Arrivée d´un Train a la Ciotat are available in the ‘Pioneers’ section of this blog.

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