One of the unintended benefits of virtual-reality headsets is the ability to watch TV. The Google Daydream, Samsung Galaxy Gear VR and PlayStation VR are provide excellent private viewing theatres to catch up on your favourite shows.
Today I discovered that this concept isn’t new. In 1937, a British company launched a tiny, personalised TV set known as the ‘Television Monocle’. Tell me you don’t want one.
The Television Monocle was announced in the March 1939 issue of Radio-Craft magazine via the above photo. It boasted a truly miniature display screen which measured just 5×3 centimetres. Here’s the product description:
Held like an ordinary French-phone, the Television Monocle affords “personalised” television image and sound reception. This H.M.V. — His Master’s Voice — Television Monocle presents an image about 1.5 x 1in. (which is about all the eye can accommodate at such short range), as viewed on the second of 2 mirrors at 45-deg. angles; the cathode-ray tube is actuated by a nearby receiver. The earpiece at the end of the Monocle completes this televiwer for the “rugged individualist.”
Doubtlessly the phrase “rugged individualist” appealed to the proto tech geeks of the era. Here’s another image that appeared in the December 1938 issue of Popular Science:
The Television Monocle’s display might seem comically small, but it’s worth remembering that broadcasts mainly consisted of stationary footage of talking heads back then. Plus, screen size is relative when it comes to eyewear devices. Indeed, the displays in some modern VR headsets aren’t much bigger.