This is the Revere Model 80 Standard 8mm Film Projector.
This projector was manufactured by the Revere Camera Company, which was founded in 1939 in Chicago. Unlike the GoldE Manufacturing company (which was also in Chicago) there is a bit more information available online about on this company (although I think all the different sites I found about it all pointed back to the same source, so here’s hoping they got it somewhere reliable). It was originally created as a subsidiary company of a car radiator manufacturer, but eventually it was rolled back into the parent company and the overall focus was moved to the production of budget cameras and projectors throughout the 40s and 50s. The company was purchased by 3M in 1960.
The Model 80 appears to have been their first 8mm projector and it was manufactured in the early to mid 1940s. It was followed by Models 85 and 90 in the late 1940s and 50s.
My grandfather acquired this particular projector in the 90s in order to play all the old 8mm films he had from my mother’s childhood. My father took the projector and the tin of films a few years later so he could move them onto DVD. At the time he was still using an SD camcorder, and so I borrowed the film and projector in order to recapture the films in HD.
As each individual filmstrip was between three and ten minutes in length, at least half of the time it took to run through them all was the time it took to setup the projector. After transferring over two hours of film, I found I really appreciated the Model 80s austere and simplistic design, as all the switches and levers are up front and easily accessible and usable. If you know what you are doing, you can set it up, play the film, rewind and remove quite quickly. As we will come to see in some later model projectors, in an attempt to make them automatic and user-friendly they hid some features and actually made them more difficult to use.
This is my favorite of the many 8mm projectors in my collection. It’s design is incredibly minimalistic–there is nothing included that is not functional. It really speaks to what a ‘budget’ product meant in 1940. It does not have any extra fancy features, but it is not at all ‘cheap’ in the modern usage of that word (ie. flimsy, disposable, poorly made). ‘Budget’ spoke more to the price and less to the quality of the item.
There were quite a few things about using this projector that really stood out to me. The first was that the actual size of the projected image is quite small compared to either a slide projector or a modern video projector. At a throw distance of twenty feet, the projected video was about the size of a 36″ screen (three foot diagonal). As a point of comparison, at that same distance the GoldE slide projector almost doubled the image size, and a modern HD video projector would create a 14-15 foot image.
These days ‘rewinding’ is all but completely divorced from it’s root word. Nothing digital can be rewound–it can be reviewed and reversed, but as there is nothing to wind, there is nothing to rewind. Most people when they think about rewinding in the ‘old sense’ would think about VHS or cassette tapes. The 8mm projector brings a whole new level of meaning to re-winding. At the end of watching a film, all of the filmstrip will have unspooled from the top and will now be on the bottom reel. The problem is that it is now wound completely backwards, so in order to properly view it again, you have to re-wind it back on the original reel. In order to do this, you can directly attach the film to the upper reel without having to spool it through the lamp/lens area, and then you release the clutch and set it to reverse and the film will re-wind itself around the top reel. It’s a big enough leap from digital to remember a time when viewing a film left it in an unviewable state that you needed to reverse in order to view again. This goes a step beyond that as both VHS and cassette tapes had the advantage of containing both reels within their cases, and so the machine could easily rewind back and forth between the reels. With an 8mm projector, you have to do most of the work that those machines did. As well, if you only have the reel with the film on it, and not a second empty take up reel, you cannot properly view your film!
The other thing that really stuck out to me in getting used to using this projector was how much I’m used to the idea of devices being intuitive and user friendly. It’s possible that this projector was intuitive for a pre-digital age that was more accustomed to levers and switches and mechanical processes–I, however, found using it rather confusing at first. It wasn’t anything that I couldn’t figure out, but it felt more like doing a puzzle than operating a device. The language of design that we are used to with our devices is completely different to the language that this projector was created with.
I’ll end here with a video I put together out of several of the films from my mother’s childhood. One of the neat features on this projector is that it has complete variable speed control, not just two or three preset speeds, but actual analog control over the full range of speed. In the early scenes of this video you’ll notice there is a flicker effect, which was due to me running it at a too-slow speed. That is corrected in the later scenes.