Television Monocle: The 1930’s VR headset?

I ran into this article over at Paleofuture, where I tend to like to hang out on Fridays instead of doing work. They claim that one of the weird and wonderful inventions of the 1930s was essentially a one-eye VR headset. Look at this pic:

So it was this little tiny TV screen that you held close to your head and it gave you a TV picture you could watch. It sounds kind of silly, but look at this actual TV that was sold in the 1970s:

This Panasonic TV was pretty much the same thing. It had a tiny 1.5″ screen that you held a few inches from your face and you got a black-and-white TV image. (It was also the working part of the “comlock” prop used in Space:1999.)

And is it much of a jump to go from people looking at that tiny screen in 1939 to this?

We look at tiny screens all the time now. They just don’t have big honking cables hanging from them.

You have to remember…

back in 1939 television was “A BIG DEAL.” Radio had been around for a generation and people had gotten used to the idea that sounds from miles away could come into their homes. Pictures had to be next, and it was one of those things that everyone “knew” would happen but no one knew how it was going to happen. Sort of like the robot uprising today. There are about a million ways that our technology could rise up and go to war with us (reference: literally every sci-fi movie, ever) but we don’t know which one of those ways will happen. Take out the paranoid dystopia, and that’s how people felt about television. It was a new invention and we were just not super sure how it was going to shake out.

Turns out though, after 70 years or so, the idea of staring at a tiny screen watching video wasn’t nearly as silly as people thought.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.