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Magic lanterns have joined the Army.

Projectors that are direct descendants of the parlor lanterns of a generation ago are now being used to train rookies in the mechanics of modern motor vehicles.

They are used with what are known as “educational reading slidefilms,” because this has been found to be the speediest and most effective means of training mechanics. And speed is necessary, because by this coming June the Army expects to have 190,000 motor vehicles.

The “textbooks” are 35-mm. films on which are recorded the intricate details of the anatomy of automobiles. The films are projected one frame at a time, and are moved through the projector manually by a knob on the side of the machine. Step by step they present all the theoretical information that an Army mechanic needs, starting with the reason for the existence of various parts, and ending with complete instructions on how they should operate and how to keep them operating that way. If the lighting conditions in the classroom are carefully controlled, there is sufficient illumination for the students to make notes and even copy the sketches and diagrams as they are projected on the screen.

The “Army kit,” which was made by the Jam Handy Organization, producer of industrial motion pictures, comprises 35 separate films, and to make them more than 3,000 drawings and a year’s work were required. This course, for specialized training, is divided into five smaller kits, covering internal-combustion engines, power transmission, factors of mobility, electrical systems, and general service and repair of automobiles.

Forty duplicate kits are now in use. They are in part responsible for the Army’s ability to turn out a trained mechanic in three months or less.

  1. Rick s. says: October 4, 20112:10 pm

    I’m surprised to see that they are calling them “Magic-Lantern” slides in that article because I was in grade school at that time (1941) and when we had slide presentations in our classes we certainly never called them anything but slide projectors. For Hirudinea, I was in the Navy between 1952 and 1956 and we DID use text slides in various training classes. In fact, as a photographer’s mate, part of my job was photographing the text and making the slides for those presentations. The ones I made were 3″ by 5″ glass slides, not the 35 mm ones they show in the article. The projectors were quite a bit larger as well.


  2. Hirudinea says: October 4, 20112:55 pm

    @ Rick – Sorry Rick, I’m just jealous because I’m illiterate. As for the slides, weren’t glass slides fragile, you’ed think 35mm would have been more user friendly.

  3. Mike says: October 4, 20114:13 pm

    How Differential Gear works: (Old GM film)…

  4. Rick s. says: October 4, 20114:16 pm

    @Hirudinea. Actually no they weren’t very fragile. They were pretty hefty. They were made of two pieces of glass . . . one had the photo emulsion on it on which you printed the image by means of a standard photo enlarger and the other was plain glass. The plain glass piece covered the emulsion side of the photosensitive plate. The two pieces of the finished slide was held together by special tape that was applied around the entire edge. They were heavy and could not be damaged easily by ordinary handling, unlike 35mm film slides. Fingerprints were just wiped off and no scratching resulted by doing that. Of course dropping them onto concrete was not a good idea! They were pretty easy to make and I rather enjoyed doing them.


  5. Toronto says: October 4, 20116:40 pm

    Rick: I’ve seen lots of 2-1/4″ square slides, but 3×5″? Did you have a side-to-side/slide-to-slide 2-way changer?

    The nice things about the 35mm filmstrips were that they took up little space when stored, they never got out of order, and the projectors were simple enough that an 8 year old could learn to use them in about 2 minutes. Singers, in particular, were all but indestructible.

  6. Charlene says: October 4, 201110:26 pm

    Now they have PowerPoint, which isn’t always a good thing.

  7. G. L. Tyrebyter says: October 5, 201112:10 am

    When I was in school during the 50s and 60s, these were called film strips. It was 35mm movie film but each frame was seperate. These projectors were a lot smaller than the slide projectors and you couldn’t lose a slide or mix up the order. Rick, I used both the paper mount and glass slides. The glass was durable and easy to clean. They would break if stepped on or dropped. They also sometimes would have a moire pattern in them from the reflection from the double glass.

  8. Rick s. says: October 8, 20115:27 pm

    @Toronto: In the early 40s when I was a schoolboy the 3/5 inch glass slides were standard along with the big slide projectors for classroom use. Yes, there was a side to side changer in those projectors which held that size slide. The projectors had quite large lenses and opened out by bellows to about two feet in length. Later in the early 50s we were still using them for training purposes in the Navy because they were well suited to auditorium usage. They had the range and light intensity to project well from the projector booth in a theater to a standard movie theater size screen. Yes, regular 35mm slide projectors were also available by that time but they just didn’t have the projection range we needed. Of course the 3X5s could also be used in smaller venues so were suitable for that purpose. The 3X5 slide format worked very well for big blowups at such a distance and were relatively inexpensive to make and use. Most of the slides we made were black and white with text and graphics on them but we did occasionally make color slides by using press cameras (Speed Graphics) and cutting down the 4X5 transparencies from them to 3X5 and sandwiching those between the glass slide covers. I learned a lot in the Navy!


  9. hwertz says: October 10, 20115:25 pm

    “When I was in school during the 50s and 60s, these were called film strips.”
    Yup, when I was in grade school in the 1980s they STILL had them and they were still called film strips. 😎
    I had one professor in college (1999) that still presented his information using pre-written (not printed!) material on an overhead projector. As a computer scientist, he hated PowerPoint as much as I do and refused to use it.

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