In 1859, German physiologist A.W. Volkmann was the first in history to describe what is now called the tachistoscope. It originally conducted psychological research into the limits of human perception. The name “tachistoscope” comes from the Greek “tachys”, translated as “swift”, and “skopion” meaning “appliance that can view.”
The original tachistoscope was a simple device made of a wooden box with a slit in the front. A slide with an image or text sat in the slit. The experimenter could control the duration of the exposure by adjusting a shutter. A weight or spring mechanism regulated the exposure duration of tachistoscope. It could present images for durations of up to a few seconds.
In the years since its invention, the tachistoscope design has improved. Here are some of the different types of tachistoscopes that are available today:
Projection tachistoscopes: These tachistoscopes use a slide projector to display images or text. the shutter of the projector controls the duration of the exposure.
Electronic tachistoscopes: These tachistoscopes use electronic components to regulate the exposure. They are often more precise than projection tachistoscopes, and they can present images or text for very short durations.
Computer-based tachistoscopes: These tachistoscopes use a computer to control the duration of the exposure. They are often the most versatile type of tachistoscope, and they can present a variety of stimuli, including images, text, and videos.
In the early 20th century, the tachistoscope trained fighter pilots during World War I. Samuel Renshaw, a professor of optometry at Ohio State University, developed a tachistoscope training program that helped pilots to identify aircraft silhouettes more quickly. This program later became standard in the US military. It also trained pilots during World War II.
In the 1960s, the tachistoscope assisted in teaching speed reading. The operator looked through a lens like a spyglass. He would identify letters, words and sentences, advancing the slide film by hand.
Today, the tachistoscope still aids psychological research, but it also operates in a variety of other industries, including:
Military: The tachistoscope also trains military personnel in a variety of tasks, including target identification, weapons firing, and situational awareness.
Business: The tachistoscope instructs employees in a variety of tasks, including customer service, sales, and product knowledge.
A number of private companies have owned a brand name for the tachistoscope. Some of them include:
Empirical Scientific Instruments: This company began in 1950 and is one of the leading manufacturers of tachistoscopes.
Peak Performance Systems: This company started in 1981 and specializes in tachistoscope training programs for speed reading and memory improvement.
Vision-Tek Systems: This company began in 1985 and manufactures a variety of tachistoscopes for use in educational, military, and business applications.
The tachistoscope is a versatile instrument that has continued to operate in a variety of applications for over 150 years.
- Year Started: 1859
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Greek for “Swift View”
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Generic
- Owner While In Use: Generic
- Owner Successor: Generic
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: N/A
- Naics Code: 334513
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