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Taking A Brief Look At The History Of Projectors

While enjoying movies on our Boxe recently, a friend brought up the question how did such great technology come to be? How long have we been watching shows like this? Well, thank you, friend, you’ve led us to quite the rabbit hole, and boy does it go deep. Join us as we take you along for a quick ride of highlights in this trip down projector history lane. 


Where it all began

So, what was the first projector? It could be said that it all started back thousands of years ago, back before written history with people telling stories with shadow puppets on the wall by using their hands. A past-time all of us are familiar with since we were children, being easily entertained by the adults and older kids at night time with some simple shadow puppeteering at night on the wall.

Since then, throughout the eras, the art of projecting an image onto a wall has changed and advanced greatly in various different ways. We’ve seen things like revolving lanterns possibly as far back as 1000 CE, a lantern that uses its own heat to rotate a piece of paper with designs like a trotting horse, and when the image paces by the hexagonal opening in the lantern, it projects an image of the horse. When spinning fast enough it helps to create the illusion of a moving picture. Other methods we have seen have been very varied, with many focusing on projecting just a simple image, like projecting lanterns, which the great Leonardo da Vinci was claimed to have used. 

Then there were more esoteric devices that were created by using similar techniques but for different results. Like the Helioscope back in the early 1600s, which was used by astronomers to look safely at the sun to see and study sunspots.

First Movie Projectors

We started seeing more real moving projected images was in the late 1800s, with the chronophotographic device that was a wheel with images along the edge of the wheel. The next invention was in the 1890s with the kinetoscope, where a strip of film could show a small video to a single viewer through a small peephole at the top. 

After the chronophotographic and the kinetoscope, advancements in projection methods exploded! So much so that the first commercial projection to a crowd of viewers was in 1895, with the Eidoloscope. After that, the rest is history with more advancements continued to be made and the thrill of watching a film in theatre became an even more common activity.


What About Digital Projectors?

Digital projectors started coming out in movie theatres first in 1999. At first, the resolution of these early digital projectors was pretty poor, but they got better and by 2006, they reached 4k quality and then over time they became the main stay projection system in movie theaters. And then from there, the rest is history. As the technology improved on the theatre front, it also became more accessible for home owners. It continued to improve and shrank in size over the hyears to what we have today.


Fun Tidbit

There have been some really interesting inventions along the way to the modern-day projector and interesting discoveries in science along the way too. Such as the scientific discovery about how light behaves and how its behavior can be demonstrated when working with projections. Since light travels in straight lines, if an image from outside for example is projected through a small hole onto a screen in a room, the image in the room will appear upside down. This phenomenon is also found in photography and with our own eyes. 

This is just one example of an interesting tidbit of the history of projectors. If you know of any interesting factoids or tidbits as well, we would love to hear them. Feel free to share what you know on our Forums or our Discord Channel.



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