From Academic Kids

Missing image
Kinetoscope with open door, film loop, and top viewing window open
The Kinetoscope was a forerunner of the modern movie projector developed by William Kennedy Laurie Dickson during his employment with Thomas Edison. However, because Edison was said to have originally conceived the idea, there is debate on who the actual inventor was.

According to the history, Edison's idea for the Kinetoscope was inspired by a visit with Eadweard Muybridge in 1888. Muybridge had earlier developed an invention he called the Zoopraxiscope. Muybridge's intention seem to be to secure financing and a commitment for further collaboration with Edison and on an elaboration of this design that included the incorporation of the Edison phonograph -- a device that would play sound and images concurrently.

Edison, impressed and inspired by Muybridge's ideas, quickly and autonomonously filed a patent that would "do for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear" and assigned the task of a new design to Laurie Dickson. He decided to call "his" invention the Kinetoscope, combining the Greek root words "kineto" (movement), and "scopos" ("to view").

Edison, Dickson and the other employees of Edison's laboratory made progress on the design to a point. Their idea for spinning cylinders could only play very short animations, limited by the diameter of the cylinder. The project stalled, but was reingivorated after Edison visited Etienne-Jules Marey, a French doctor and photographer who had developed a "chronophotographe", which used a strip of film which was much longer than the diameter of any useful cylinder.

John Carbutt's work on emulsion-coated celluloid film further progressed aims in this direction. William Heise, working alongside Dickson at Edison's lab, incorporated this advancement. The film was designed as a loop, snaked around a series of spindles in a wooden box, which was viewed by looking down into a window. The lab developed a new camera to use this film, the kinetograph.

On May 20, 1891 the first public display of Edison's prototype kinetoscope was shown at Edison's Laboratory for a convention of the National Federation of Women's Clubs. The premiere of the completed Kinetoscope was held at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences on May 9, 1893.


The Kinetophone was an early attempt by Edision to unite picture and sound in the late 1800s. In the spring of 1895, Edision offered the kinetophone, a kinetoscope movie synchronized by a belt with an Edison phonograph. The first movie shown on the kinetophone was the Dickson Experimental Sound Film.

Dickson left the lab and the kintoscope declined in popularity. Work on the kinetophone was suspended for eighteen years. In 1913, Edison introduced a new kinetophone designed to synchronize the sound with a motion picture projected onto a screen. There were still problems with film breaks and poorly trained operators causing the picture to get out of synchronization with the sound. The result was audience dissatisfaction and the kinetophone never became popular.

See also


  • "History of Edison Motion Pictures, the kinetoscope". Library of Congress ( Retrieved Jan. 25, 2005.
  • "Kinetoscope". ( Retrieved Apr. 15, 2005.
  • "Kinetophones". ( Retrieved Apr. 15, 2005.ja:キネトスコープ

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