Jefferies Tubes #4: Trek On Demand, 70's & 80's Style

By Maria Jose and John Tenuto - November 16, 2012


Before the era of VHS and DVD, Star Trek fans had various “on demand” home entertainment technologies by which to enjoy the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk and crew. As we crawl through the Jefferies Tubes this edition, we will explore some of those 1970s and 1980s technologies.

STAR TREK SLIDES

Many fans alive during the 1970s remember the photo slide craze of the era, and perhaps still have carousels of slides sitting patiently in boxes waiting to again be brought out and shown during one the era’s ubiquitous “family slide shows.” Vacations and graduations were preserved on these slides which could then be displayed on walls, sheets, and screens in much larger sizes than regular photos ever allowed. Indeed, slides were foretelling the future of big screen HD TVs.


Lincoln Enterprises, Gene and Majel Roddenberry’s mail order memorabilia company started in 1967, offered 35mm film clip frames of Star Trek episodes in slide form. Because almost every frame of an episode would be available for purchase, fans occasionally received photos of deleted scenes or special effects while in production. Today, some fans are digitizing the slides and cleaning up the pictures to share with the world through social media and photo housing sites, joining together the technologies of 40 years ago with today’s computers and Internet.


Included are two digitized examples of the Lincoln Enterprises slides. Note that the slide of the stock footage from the U.S.S. Enterprise command bridge has no image on the view screen.

1967 CHEMTOY STAR TREK MOVIE VIEWER

Before tablets and the Internet allowed us access to film and television libraries numbering in the hundreds of thousands, there was the Chemtoy Star Trek Movie Viewer!



One of the first Star Trek collectibles ever available, the 1967 movie viewer included the first two chapters of "Planet of No Return" a Star Trek comic adventure. Priced at 59 cents, the movie viewer was found at local grocery stores, usually as an impulse buy item located at various aisles of interest to kids, especially where the cereal and candy could be had.



Once procured, the viewer allowed fans to manually pull the included “Planet of No Return” film strips through the viewer which had to be directed towards a light source such as a lamp to really be visible. Reproduced here are clips from the comics, not seen by many for decades.

1978 IDEA TOY POCKET FLIX

Today, we’re used to carrying around smart phones, able to log on to the official Star Trek website and watch episodes of our favorite show in HD wherever we are. Back in the 1970s, however, that technology was as futuristic as the communicator and fans had to be content with items such as the 1978 Pocket Flix from the Ideal Toy company. The viewer was much more advanced than the 1967 Chemtoy offering because it had the ability to show moving images from Star Trek episodes. Replaceable cassettes of film reels from popular shows of the era (The Hardy Boys, for example!) were available, featuring about 1.5 minutes of footage with no sound, but in color. Showing how popular Star Trek was, the Star Trek cassette was included when the Pocket Flix was purchased.


In addition to a photo of the Pocket Flix, included HERE is a video peeking inside the viewer and showing the footage included. Can you tell which episodes the cassette edited together?

What is interesting sociologically is how Star Trek has been so intimately connected with every major on-demand home entertainment technology since its premiere: Star Trek has been used to help introduce everything from color TVs in the 1960s to VHS tapes (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan helped usher in the era of affordable home VHS tapes) to DVDs to Blu-rays (with the remastered and enhanced versions of Trek demonstrating what these formats could achieve). It all began with some film strips and a Pocket Flix!

NEXT TIME: Star Trek books on tape! 

 

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Maria Jose and John Tenuto are both sociology professors at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, specializing in popular culture and subculture studies. The Tenutos have conducted extensive research on the history of Star Trek, and have presented at venues such as Creation Conventions and the St. Louis Science Center. They have written for the official Star Trek Magazine and their extensive collection of Star Trek items has been featured in SFX Magazine. Their theory about the “20-Year Nostalgia Cycle” and research on Star Trek fans has been featured on WGN News, BBC Radio, and in the documentary The Force Among Us. They are currently researching all known paperwork from the making of the classic episode "Space Seed" and are excited to share some previously unreported information about Khan's first adventure with fellow fans next year when the research is complete. Contact the Tenutos at jtenuto@clcillinois.edu or mjtenuto@clcillinois.edu.



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