Actualité 11.08.2008

Classics of everyday design No 48 – The View-Master

“I’m not sure if the digitally capable will approve of the View-Master, a simple little plastic device used by generations of children to look at 3-D colour pictures, happily amazed. But, however, anyone might look down on such a jolly little machine today, the View-Master is one good reason the American product designer, Charles “Chuck” Harrison [b 1931] won the Cooper Hewitt’s 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Harrison’s classic “View-Master” – the one that seems to have appeared in every Christmas catalogue for children’s toys that appeared in the west from the late 1950s – was not the first View-Master. According to the Wikipedia entry on the subject, it was invented by Harold Graves, a postcard maker, and William Gruber, an organ maker and keen photographer for Sawyer’s Photo Services in the US, and was first shown to the public at the 1939 New York World’s Fair; the entry goes on to say that the “US military recognised the potential for using View-Master products for personnel training, purchasing 100,000 viewers and nearly 6 million reels between 1942 and the end of the second world war”. Intriguing stuff, but can anyone tell me what the military actually watched through the lenses of their stereoscopic View-Masters?”

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(Source: Nicolas Marier)