Monday, November 25, 2019


Here, from Meghan Bogardus Corteza of EdTech, is a profile of the overhead projector of classrooms past. I remember these projectors from high school, in several ways:

I remember digging the markers that teachers used for writing on transparencies, in class, in real time. Corteza asks, “Who doesn’t remember the thrill of being allowed to write on the transparency with a dry-erase marker and seeing the results projected on the wall?” That would be me — because we never got to write on transparencies. Teachers only!

Were they really dry-erase markers? I think I remember grease pencils, with a rag to wipe the transparency clean.

I remember the tremendous heat that the projector threw off. And the blinding light from inside the machine.

I remember that some projectors were equipped with one long scrolling transparency: write, crank, write, crank. The erasing later on must have been a pain.
I can’t recall a projector ever in use in one of my college classes. (I do remember a slide projector in art history class.) As a professor, I would notice the overhead projector stashed on the wall convector, next to lost scarves and notebooks and a little box or two of spare bulbs. A sad, neglected projector in every classroom. But every once in a while, even in the age of document readers and PowerPoint, I’d enter a classroom to find a projector sitting on the instructor’s desk at the front of the room. Someone must have been making a presentation.

I made use of an overhead projector just once in my teaching career: when reading Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” I asked my students to write a short stanza about a way of seeing the projector that sat in the room. We put the stanzas together (in a chance sequence) to make what turned out to be a pretty wonderful poem. I wish I could find it now.

Thanks, Mike, for thinking about old tech and sending the link.

comments: 2

Anonymous said...

What a flashback! I worked when they were still being used for corporate presentations. And god forbid, if you dropped an inch thick pile of slides!! I even remember having to create them at copy machines.

We had classes on effective presentations which I still use today when putting ones together even if on a computer. Such as the always avoid the eye chart --the one where someone tries to cram 16 pages of data on one page! We were also taught to drop the chart on the floor and see if it was readable: if so, just the right amount of info.

And did you ever sit in a room and someone walked in with a 3 inch notebook full of slides..........Groans all around. And then there was the presenter who would walk in with slides and shuffle through them trying to find the ones they wanted.

I never had the fun of using the long roll of transparency film.


Michael Leddy said...

That’s good advice about the eye chart. At the other end of the spectrum are slides with just a (mind-numbing) handful of words. Aiiee!