Movies are considered an art and a way the artists express themselves. Suffice all the artistry in the industry, technology has just been as important.

Some famous inventions which have come to change our way of life happened under different circumstances. There was a necessity which mostly filled a gap of a need, and others were accidentally stumbled upon while others, a group of people sat down and decided to invent something. The projector, which we have used for decades to watch movies and other forms of entertainment, falls in the ‘none of the above category.’ Projectors have been in use for longer than we know with a history dating the first ‘primitive’ projectors which used shadows and was referred to as shadow play. This is where the electronic projectors, came from.

The story of invention

Before the projector, there was the kinetoscope, which allowed people to watch pictures through a peephole. The only problem it only allowed one viewer at a time. Charles Francis Jenkins is the inventor of the projector we know today. Born in 1867, he worked through a few jobs before quitting and starting a research laboratory in Washington DC with a couple of his friends. It is in this lab that Jenkins began work on a device he called Phantoscope, which was improved to the movie theatre projector we know today.

The theft of the modern movie projector invention

With the Phantoscope ready, Jenkins returned home to Indiana to show his family and friends his new invention. They had all gathered in an upstairs room of one of Jenkins’ cousin’s jewelry store together with a few reporters. Jenkins fired up his Phantoscope and showed them a clip of a dancer, which was on film already. That was the first movie ever shown to the public in April of 1895.


Earlier in the winter of 1894, while still attending the Bliss School of Electricity, Jenkins had been introduced to Thomas Armat. Armat was looking for an investment opportunity while Jenkins was in need of financial support for his Phantoscope invention. The two signed an agreement that stated Armat would finance and promote Jenkins inventions and together, where together, they made a few improvements to the Phantoscope. They worked together for some time, even managing to open the first movie theatre at the Cotton Sales Exposition where movies were shown to paying audiences.

It was Thomas Armat, Jenkins financier, and promoter who stole the patent of the Phantoscope and sold it to another businessman/inventor Thomas Edison. The parting ways of Jenkins and Armat was a nasty affair with each man claiming the invention amid other accusations.

Mass production

Thomas Edison took the patent, employed Armat and began to mass produce and market the Phantoscope, which he had now renamed Vitascope, and opened a movie theater in New York. Jenkins, on the other hand, did a few modifications to his Phantoscope and continued to invent.

How the projector works

A technology called Liquid Crystal Light Valve(LCLV), is responsible for the workings of a projector. Avery bright light shines through a small LCD screen, which then magnifies the image many times over and then shows it on a wall mounted screen.

Who knew what a nasty history the movie projector really held?




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