Thursday, January 03, 2013

Thursday Reading And The Thrill Of The Filmstrip

Judith 5-6.
Genesis 12:1-8.

I have no idea why, but today I was thinking about filmstrips.  For the first time in years, maybe decades.

Filmstrips were like a dream to a grade schooler in the 1970s. I remember how much I loved walking into a classroom and seeing the filmstrip projector.  Which meant those darn blasto-lighting fluorescents would soon be off and you could relax.

Or take a nap.  Although that's something I never did personally.

I remembered some filmstrips had text that needed to be read.  So the teacher would go around the room and ask people to read what was on the screen.

This was one of the ways I started to realize I needed glasses.  I remember squinting through one filmstrip in particular, hoping I got all the words right.

One does tend to sound like an idiot when one mistakes a "the" for a "she".  Classmates and teachers tend to think, "that boy ain't right".

I remember in grade school how much fun it was to get to be the one who turned out the lights for the filmstrip.  Or a movie.  I always liked to be "called on" to do that.  It always helped to be sitting close to the light switches.

But the greatest fun of all was to be able to "turn" the filmstrip.  When the projected slide was done, it was your job to advance the strip to the next slide.  The earliest I remember doing this was in 3rd grade, although I might have done it earlier.

Of course, "strip turning" was a big responsibility.  If you lost your place or daydreamed, everyone knew it.  When it came time to advance, and you didn't do it in a timely fashion, everyone yelled at you.  "HEY, TURN IT" was never something one wanted to wake up to.

Then as I grew up a little more I remember we had strips that had audio narration.  Some had narration records that you played, others had cassettes, and the strip was a bunch of pictures on a topic.

I still remember that "BEEP" sound on these recordings that was the signal to advance the strip to the next slide.  Again, while it was fun to get to be the strip turner, it was a lot of responsibility.  You could really get messed up in a hurry.

Sometimes there would be a discrepancy between the slide and the narration, usually at the start of the strip, when there might be a couple of title slides.  Or you could get off track because you couldn't always hear the beep.  You could always tell something was awry.  Usually at that point the teacher would have to intervene, and the fun began while they hunted desperately to catch up to the concurrent slide.

But the worst feeling of all was when you weren't quite sure if you were off or not.  The picture and the narration would sort of fit together, but maybe there was something that just didn't seem right.  So you had to sweat out a few slides until you had concrete evidence whether you were on it or not.

As much fun as filmstrips were, classroom movies remained king of the student's school day.  While a film projector was a great sight to see, the sight of a movie projector was Nirvana.

Filmstrips, as well as films, had to be rewound.  The filmstrip had to be done by hand.  Once it came out of the projector, I remember it being quite warm to the touch.  And you had to start the winding tight enough that it fit into that tiny little filmstrip plastic canister, but not so tight that you bent the strip.

And you couldn't touch the slides, of course, you could only handle it by the edges.

It was quite the art form, I must say.

Rewinding a movie required even higher technical skills.  You had to get the film tucked in the little slit of the center of the reel, and know what buttons to push.  You also had to time it just right at the end and shut it down just as the last few frames went twirling back on the original reel.

If it went around too many times at the end of the rewind, the film made this annoyingly loud and frantic whipping noise, and you knew you'd screwed up.  There'd be no more rewinding for awhile in that teacher's class.

Lucky for you it's getting late.  I was about to get started on overheads and opaque projectors.

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