Singer Caramate II SP: Multimedia Slide Projector
Oh, I've been meaning to tell you that I've become crushingly old in the last few days. A friend of mine was bequeathed a turntable, and asked me to help hook it up. Once the dirty work was over, she was amazed that there were different songs on each side of the record, that you could put the stylus anywhere and instantly hear music, and that the tone arm would retract instead of "screwing up the sticker in the middle". Granted she's 20 years old, and so has no real frame of reference for these mysteriously musical shiny black discs.
This led to talking of the days when "multimedia" actually meant multiple separate devices synchronized together to put on a show. Back when phones only made telephone calls, you'd need special machines in order to bring audio to visuals. The Singer Caramate (yes, the sewing machine people), brings together a carousel slide projector, a cassette player, and a built-in screen.
Clearly patterned after a (really heavy) portable television, you pop a carousel full of 35mm slides on top, snap a cassette in the side and hit "play". The projected image is better than HD resolution (I love saying that...), and is surprisingly compact given all that it's doing. I believe that this unit is also able to auto-advance the slides, controlled by inaudible tones on the cassette.
These weren't really consumer devices. I saw them mostly in schools and in libraries. In addition to looking at commercially available slide shows, you could also create your own using a 35mm camera and the Caramate - much easier than trying to make your own educational filmstrip! Until video cassettes came along, this was probably the least expensive way of synchronizing a visual presentation with sound.
These all-in-one viewers are still useful today if you have a lot of slides to sort through. It works even in room light, and this is much easier than setting up a screen and chasing everyone out of the room.
For those of you who remember using gear like this, don't be mad at my young friend. She reminded me that there's at least a chance that young people will show a trickle of interest in devices like this one. In between instant-messaging people on their MySpace friend list, I mean...