[ster-ee-op-ti-kuhn, -kon, steer-]
stereopticon, optical projection instrument making multiple use of the magic lantern. The magic lantern uses lenses to throw on a screen a magnified image from a transparent slide or from an opaque object such as a photograph or the page of a book. The stereopticon combines two or three magic lanterns to focus, in the same area of light on the screen or wall, dissolving views or combinations of images.

A stereopticon is a projector or "magic lantern", which has two lenses, usually one above the other. These devices date back to the mid 19th century, and were a popular form of entertainment and education before the advent of moving pictures. Americans William and Frederick Langenheim introduced stereopticon slide technology - slide shows of projected photographs on glass - in 1850. For a fee of ten cents, people could view realistic photographs with nature, history, and science themes. At first, the shows used random images, but over time, lanternists began to place the slides in logical order, creating a narrative. This "visual storytelling" directly preceded the development of the first moving pictures. The term stereopticon has been widely misused to name a stereoscope. A stereopticon will not project or display stereoscopic / three-dimensional (3-D) images. The two lenses are used to dissolve between images when projected. All stereopticons can be classified as magic lanterns, but not all magic lanterns are stereopticons.

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