CAROUSEL SLIDE PROJECTOR

DescriptionA mechanical device for viewing 2×2 inch photographic slides.
ManufacturerELMO Japan
Time Period1980s
Components1
DetailsELMO Omnigraphic 253E. Made in Japan. Accompanied by set
of slides – to be confirmed.
Dimensions19 x 38 x 35 cm
LocationUCL Cabinet of Obsolete Media
Inventory nºUCL201706

The carousel slide projector is a mechanical device for viewing 2 x 2 inch photographic slides. “Slide” refers to a 35mm positive image on a transparent base contained within a plastic or paper mount, which protects the image and allows it to be moved within a projection device.[1] In the carousel projector, a circular tray holds up to 80 colour slides, allowing them to be stored and viewed in a sequence without interrupting the flow of presentation. By allowing seamless synchronisation of information and narrative, the device changed the way we structure presentations and education.

The first commercial slide projector was introduced by the Kodak Eastman company in 1937, as a way to bring the brilliant colours offered by the new Kodachrome colour film (invented in 1935) to the general public.[2] The first model required each slide to be loaded by hand, one by one, into the projector, where a focused light was directed through the semi-transparent slide. After extensive experimentation with various formats of automated linear slide movement, the company released the revolutionary Carousel projector in 1961, eventually patenting the technology in 1966. The circular tray rotating over a stationary base allowed each slide to drop into the projection space through the use of gravity, effectively reducing the margin of human error. Additional benefits included easy editing of image sequence through the top-loading tray, automated slide changing at a variety of speeds, and remote-controlled operation that allowed the user to manipulate the presentation at a distance.

The carousel projector was intended to be accessible and easy to use for the general public as well as professionals. It quickly became the standard for sharing photos at home as well as text, charts, and images in the classroom. The freedom given to the operator to narrate over the sequential visual presentation of the slide projector was revolutionary both as an entertainment technique and as a pedagogical strategy.[3]

The carousel slide projector created a unique sensory experience for viewing images that no longer exists in today’s digital age. The dim lighting required, sounds of the fan motor, the click of changing slides, and the brief black pause between each projected image all contributed towards an enhancement of the photograph’s material presence. These material qualities resonate today with artists and presenters seeking to imbue their work with a sense of history or nostalgia.

As worldwide demand grew for the technology, the company developed partnerships with international electronic companies to create compatible devices for overseas markets, such as the Japanese ELMO company. The carousel projector held in the UCL History of Art Department’s Cabinet of Obsolete Technologies is an ELMO Omnigraphic 253E, a professional-grade device likely dating from the early 1980’s.

With the rise of computer technology, Kodak ceased production of the carousel slide projector in 2004. While the device itself may now be obsolete, its impact on communication strategy lives on through the widespread use of sequential presentations, most vividly through its immediate follower, PowerPoint.

C.A.


[1] Tina Weidner, “Dying Technologies: The End of 35 mm Slide Transparencies”, (Tate Research, 2012), https://www.tate.org.uk/about-us/projects/dying-technologies-end-35-mm-slide-transparencies.

[2] Darsie Alexander, Charles Harrison, and Robert Storr, “Slideshow: Projected Images in Contemporary Art”, (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005), p. 4.

[3] Alexander, Harrison and Storr, “Slideshow”, p. 7.