Known Johnson

March 19, 2008


Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:12 pm

Does anyone else remember filmstrips from school?

filmstrip projector

For whatever reason, I always end up thinking about these when I think about school, and how Amanda will have absolutely no idea what these are because schools today are all fancy-schmantsy with Cable In The Classroom and the Intarweb and all that. When I was a kid, it was this or maybe if we got lucky an actual film, and, later, TVs with VCRs that rarely ever worked right. If they did, it looked like the old cable boxes that had buttons to be tuned to get in the channels you weren’t supposed to get – wavy lines and horrible, warbly sound.

Filmstrip days were always the ultimate in boredom – it was like watching the worst slideshow of someone’s most horrendously boring vacation accompanied by an even more boring dramatized reading of the events going on in it. Still pictures on a screen for a minute or two at a time while information is being delivered to anxious, bored kids in a darkened room is just not a great way to educate. About the only thing that kept most of us awake was the piercing BEEP that sounded when the film needed to be advanced.

That’s right, youngest of the young out there, this was all manual. Some lucky kid sat behind this little device as it belched a cloud of invisible heat from its projection lamp and waited, tense, for that beep. No one wanted to be late cranking the knob for fear of being on the receiving end of an attack from the rest of the class. No one wanted to sit watching the same frozen still, which usually featured some character caught mid-action, open-mouthed as if talking, and the film itself was usually something about 15 years out of date. Come on!, they’d yell, and if this happened too much, if the operator proved too nervous and too undependable, a backup was called in. No one wanted to have that happen – it was the ultimate insult.

For whatever reason, however, getting to run the filmstrip projector was seen as some great reward, and filmstrip days were exciting for the one person who got to man the machine. God knows why, because the stress was great, but somehow being in control of the timing of images-to-narration made this a pretty powerful position. Sometimes kids who’d done it a lot got cocky, turning the advance-crank early before the beep to show that they’re on top of things. Once in a while, they’d get tripped up, finding only a pause in an unusually long segment rather than a transition to a new one, and have to sheepishly back track for a moment before quickly jumping forward again. Despite their best efforts, there was no art to filmstripping.

In a way, I guess I have to admit that I hope Amanda doesn’t have to endure crap like this. It was pointless. We knew it then, I’m sure the teachers knew it then, too. I’d like to think that one of the benefits of all of these new technologies is that kids won’t be dealing with long out of date materials like we did. Entertaining as it was, I can’t remember a single thing from any filmstrip I ever saw, and I must have seen hundreds of them throughout my education. That said, I can’t say I specifically remember all that much of anything from school learning itself, most of what I learned that meant anything was what I picked up out of curiosity. I’m sure there are general things I learned from school that would be impossible to pick up on your own, but one thing I know for certain, I could never have experienced filmstrips on my own. So, for that alone, I do owe the educational system something.



  1. Oh, yes, I remember film strips! In fact, my introduction to “A Wrinkle In Time” was via a dramatization via film strip that featured wildly psychedelic watercolor paintings. In fact, when I re-read AWIT this last October, I found it didn’t hold a candle to my film strip recollection! I still remember the frame that showed a street of identical houses with identical children playing in front, all bouncing their balls in unison. Good times.

    Comment by Yogi — March 20, 2008 @ 6:12 am | Reply

  2. I always remembered the feeling of being smarter than the teacher where it seemed that they had no idea of how to use the contraption and us brainiac children had the upper hand. I hope I never lose touch with technilogical advancement they way that I tought my teachers had.

    Comment by BrokenLyre — March 22, 2008 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

  3. Whenever it was time to watch a video in Sunday School, the teacher(s) would spend at least ten minutes futzing around with the VCR. They’d put the tape in, press every button EXCEPT the play button, twist every knob, turn the TV off and on four or five times, bring the lights back up, eject the tape, reinsert the tape, turn the volume up and then down again, mumble curse words under their breath, and then, inevitably, when they finally got the video playing, the tracking would be irreparably (for them) messed up because of all their indiscriminate knob-turning.

    I’m sure the young people of today will experience the same thing, just with newer technology:

    Old Teacher: And now we’re going to watch a video *from the internet!* **pauses, waiting for ooos and ahhhs from the children**

    Children: …

    OT: Let me just go the “earl” [meaning URL] real quick…uh oh, somebody moved the internet [meaning someone removed the Internet Explorer icon from the desktop].

    Children: …

    OT: Dang it! I can’t download the video earl when people keep moving the internet!

    Child: Just go the Start Menu, click on Programs, then click on “Internet Explorer.”

    OT: …

    Child: *Sigh* Move the mouse down the bottom lef–

    OT: Oh, there’s the internet! I found it! It was there on the desk screen [desktop] the whole time! Sit down, Billy, I can handle this!

    Children: …

    OT: Ok, here we go…

    Child: We can’t see anything. The projector’s not on.

    OT: Projector?

    …[This goes on for bout ten minutes]…

    OT: THERE we go. Wait…why can’t we hear it?

    Child: Because you have to volume turned all the way down in Windows.

    OT: Window volume?

    Child: Yes, you need to click on the speake–

    [Bell Rings]

    We can laugh now, but all too soon we’ll be old and cranky and, assuming we’re teachers someday, we won’t know the first thing about memsynching the day’s lesson to the student’s visuchips.

    Comment by UncleMidriff — March 26, 2008 @ 8:54 pm | Reply

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