Seeing 3 Dimentional

IMG_1663by Neva Bodin defines stereoscope (ster·e·o·scope ster-ee- uh-skohp,) as a noun and “an optical instrument through which two pictures of the same object, taken from slightly different points of view, are viewed, one by each eye, producing the effect of a single picture of the object, with the appearance of depth or relief.”

I hadn’t thought of my old Viewmasters as stereoscopes, but that’s what they are too. Anyone lost yet?

Without realizing it, each of our eyes sees a slightly different angle of everything, allowing our brains to form the 3 dimensional images of everyday life.

One of the image cards for my stereoscope. They look identical with the naked eye, but viewed through the stereoscope have amazing depth.

As early as 1823, a teacher of mathematics in Edinburgh, Scotland conceived the idea of creating a 3 D image to view on paper. The first stereoscopes were made of rather large boxes. Finally by 1851 a smaller hand held one was invented, and the one I have from my family was designed in 1861 by Oliver Wendell Holmes, when he was twenty years old. (Holmes went on to become quite a celebrated US Supreme Court Justice until he was 90.)

This is my stereoscope.

They are fascinating to look through and see how the image is set up. And of course, interesting to me also, because the images are of late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

The Viewmaster uses a round disc with pictures that rotates as you flip a switch on the side. Little stories accompany the discs. I have Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, The Christmas Story, Alice in Wonderland and more.

One of my viewmasters–like looking into a different world, or maybe Alice’s looking glass!

I also used the viewmaster to play nurse when I was young. In the doctor’s offices in those days, the nurse looked at your blood through a microscope and had a little counter gadget in her hand that she clicked every time she saw a white or red blood cell. Very untechy to today’s lab techs, but it worked. In my case, this act was usually followed by a shot in the butt.

When young, I pretended my viewmaster was a microscope and clicked the little lever as I looked into it and counted the cells of my pretend blood. That was when I wasn’t playing a teacher, waitress, housewife or preacher. (Amazing I had no trouble choosing my career of nursing.)

As I thought of the ingenuity of people who invented these devices I thought of how we need to remember we see everyone and everything at a little different angle by each eye. And instead of allowing our brain to combine these angles into one impression, perhaps we should evaluate our image of others a bit. Even the characters in our lives and stories. Perhaps while our brain combines the physical image into one 3-D visual impression, we should train our brains to work on the emotional or subjective image of the person or situation we see. Consider them from different angles.

The apparent father coming around the corner has a sizable stick in his hand. I hear the “whack” coming.

I know, it’s a bit of a stretch to see the simile, but there’s where my brain went.

And maybe we already do. For we create 3-D images of people in our stories—no one being totally good or bad usually, unless we plan it that way. We want people to identify with our characters, so they must have depth, even if they are shallow sometimes.

Have I lost anyone again? Anyway, just some random thoughts as I gazed at pictures through my stereoscope tonight, and then dug out my Viewmastsers (I have two). Nostalgia and amazement at the human mind that is always inventing, be it good or bad.


15 thoughts on “Seeing 3 Dimentional

  1. I loved the analogy. I also remember both devices and had such fun with them, but never to count blood cells. (now we know why nursing wasn’t a choice for me). I would make up stories based on what I saw, becoming one of the people I viewed. (Yes, I became a writer/actor).

    Oh the memories. Thank You Neva. Doris


    1. Sounds like you were very clever even then. Glad it brought good memories back. Everything seemed amazing, yet kept life at a slower pace. I think that was a good thing. Couldn’t just get impatient because the picture wasn’t forming on the screen fast enough. Then and now, amazing in different ways.


  2. I like to create characters. I have a hard time giving bad to good people, but I need to think about this. Perhaps in my next book. Cancel Out Murder, the good guy will have a dark secret. What a wonderful trip down memory lane you had. Fun. Cher’ley


    1. That’s interesting. I didn’t know they had talking ones. It was always kind of a pain to read the story then look in the viewmaster then go to the next scene etc. Would have loved a talking one.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I, too, had a Viewmaster and used it a lot at my grandma’s house — I totally had forgotten that memory; thanks for bringing it back to life, Neva, just as we need to bring our characters to life.


  4. My grandmother left her family’s stereoscope and a case of the 3D photos of faraway places. Grandma’s momma and papa must have bought them sometime in the late 19th century. When my uncle — my mother’s brother — was a youngster in the early 1950s, he got a viewmaster for his birthday or Christmas. On our visits to Grandma’s house, I’d pull out that viewmaster and look at the round 3D image cards. Each had to do with a fairytale. I remember Hansel and Gretel — scary stuff.


  5. What a fabulous legacy, Neva. Not only do you have the instruments but such old images as well. There’s a social history in that box! I had a viewmaster and still have a 1960s viewer for individual slides but that’s not nearly as exciting as what you’ve got there. Thanks for sharing the history and the science.


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