The Fiske Studying Machine: The Twenties Precursor to the Kindle




The Sony Librie, the primary e-reader to make use of a contemporary electronic-paper display screen, got here out in 2004. Previous as that’s in tech years, the essential concept of a handheld machine that may retailer giant quantities of textual content stretches at the least eight many years farther again in historical past. Witness the Fiske Studying Machine, an invention first profiled in a 1922 difficulty of Scientific American. “The instrument, consisting of a tiny lens and a small curler for working this eyepiece up and down a vertical column of reading-matter, is a method by which atypical typewritten copy, when photographically diminished to one-hundredth of the area initially occupied, may be learn with fairly the ability that the impression of typical printing sort is now revealed to the unaided eye,” writes writer S. R. Winters.

Making books appropriate with the Fiske Studying Machine concerned not digitization, in fact, however miniaturization. In keeping with the patents filed by inventor Bradley Allen Fiske (eleven in all, between 1920 and 1935), the textual content of any guide might be photo-engraved onto a copper block, diminished ten instances within the course of, after which printed onto strips of paper to be used within the machine, which might make them readable once more by a magnifying lens. A single magnifying lens, that’s: “A blinder, connected to the machine, may be operated in obstructing the view of the unused eye.” (Winters provides that “the usage of each eyes will probably contain the development of a unit of the studying machine extra elaborate than the current design.”)

“Fiske believed he had single-handedly revolutionized the publishing business,” writes Engadget’s J. Rigg. “Because of his ingenuity, books and magazines might be produced for a fraction of their present worth. The price of supplies, presses, delivery and the burden of storage may be slashed. He imagined magazines might be distributed by publish for subsequent to nothing, and most powerfully, that publishing in his format would enable everybody entry to academic materials and leisure irrespective of their degree of revenue.” Contemplating how the connection between readers and studying materials in the end advanced, thanks to not copper blocks and magnifiers and tiny strips of paper however to computer systems and the web, it appears that evidently Fiske was a person forward of his time.

Alas, the Fiske Studying Machine itself was simply on the incorrect aspect of technological historical past. At the same time as Fiske was refining its design, “microfilm was starting to catch on,” and “whereas it initially discovered its toes within the enterprise world — for preserving document of cancelled checks, for instance — by 1935 Kodak had begun publishing The New York Occasions on 35mm microfilm.” Regardless of absolutely the prevalence that format quickly attained on the planet of archiving, “the urge for food for miniaturized novels and handheld readers by no means materialized in the best way Fiske had imagined.” Nor, absolutely, might he have imagined the shape the digital, electronic-paper-screened, and slim but massively capacious type that the e-reader must take earlier than discovering success within the market — but one way or the other with out fairly displacing the paper guide as even he knew it.


through Engadget

Associated content material:

The e-Guide Imagined in 1935

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Uncover the Jacobean Touring Library: The seventeenth Century Precursor to the Kindle

Behold the “Guide Wheel”: The Renaissance Invention Created to Make Books Moveable & Assist Students Research A number of Books at As soon as (1588)

The Web page Turner: A Fabulous Rube Goldberg Machine for Readers

Based mostly in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His initiatives embody the Substack publication Books on Cities, the guide The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The Metropolis in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.



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