Inventors · New York · Second World War · Television

November 23, 1948- Dr. Back Awarded the Patent for his Zoomar Lens

Zoomar Lens - Serial #1
Zoomar Lens – Serial #1
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I love watching football, and just this season, I have converted my wife into a football –okay, Seattle Seahawks, and Utah Utes–fan.

Could you imagine watching a football game without a zoom lens?

Screen at Texas Station – Gaylord Texan Resort
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Earlier this year, Littlesparksoflife2 and I were at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas and watched a game on this screen.  Could you imagine what that would be like without zoom? Sure the screen is big enough that I did not need glasses, but still!

Imagine watching a game from to top of a stadium without a Jumbotron or binoculars!

I remember going to a Canucks game years ago in BC Place with a date; the players looked like plastic army men and that was indoors!

All of this changed back in 1946, thanks to an amazing man–Dr. Frank G. Back. Dr. Back was an Austrian-born Optical Engineer. Dr. Back came to the United States in 1939, getting out of Hilter’s Germany. He settled in New York City and gained employment as a consulting engineer.

After the United States entered the Second World War, Dr. Back was working to improve cameras and lens for the Signal Corps.

After the war ended, Dr. Back applied the knowledge gained during war time to civilian cameras.

He came up with the Zoomar Lens. It is a combination of movable and fixed lenses that allow a camera operator to press a lever a zoom in on a shot.

I know that this is something that we take for granted today but before this lens, if you wanted a close up shot, you moved the camera.

It is a conventional practice in the moving picture industry to provide zoom effects by the simple device of moving the camera toward or away from the object. To eliminate the need for such camera movement, varifocal lenses have been invented. These lenses provide different focal lengthsto adapt the camera to the different and changing requirements of zooming. These varifocal lenses have been very unsatisfactory both from the point of view of manufacture and use.

US Patent 2454686

Dr. Back debuted the zoom camera in the 1947 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. This lens forever changed television baseball coverage.

Dr. Back applied for a patent for this lens on July 30, 1946. Patent #2454686 was issued 67 years ago today, on November 23, 1948.   

Dr. Back has been called the “Father of the Zoom.” This is not the case; he did not invent the zoom lens. He took the technology available and was in the right place at the right time to show it off.

So, Dr. Frank G. Back forever changed the way we view television, not just sports. Could you imagine watching a speech from a public event? We would not even be able to see the speaker unless the camera were in his or her face.

So, for sports fans everywhere, I thank you Dr. Back!

In case you wanted to own one – Michigan State University



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