The Naughty Bits (I mean the internals. Get your minds out of the gutter!)

Okay, so perhaps the inside of a Taxiphote isn't as fun as a girl without her clothing, but then Benny Hill wasn't half as racy as people gave him credit for either. Does that make sense? No? I thought not. Any way...

I'm not about to try and explain the step by step workings of all these things. Half the parts I can't even name, but I will happily offer my uneducated opinion as to some of the strengths and weaknesses of the various competing designs. I'm slowly becoming a little more active about doing CLA on these things, and will make a point of photographing the internals any time I take one apart.

Le Taxiphote

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Here is the gold standard of cabinet viewer designs. The first patented Taxiphote mechanism is beyond rare. I have never seen one, and don't honestly don't know if it was ever produced. However, within the scope of available technology, the second design is near flawless. A good indicator of how well these machines were assembled is evidenced by the fact some 70 plus years later they rarely need more than a light CLA. In my experience, the most common issue with Taxiphotes is the slide lifting fingers. They often need adjustment. All tray fed viewers suffer this malady, and if not properly adjusted can leave ugly scratches in slide emulsion. Although the Planox is not the most elegant viewer, it is the only one which cleverly worked around the slide lifting issue.

Le Taxiphote 6 x 13 and No 2, 8.5 x 17

Another hallmark of the Taxiphote's brilliant mechanical design is the fact it proved scalable. This isn't always true, even today. Even the largest Taxiphote viewers offered smooth and reliable operation. The photo here is of a 6 x 13, but differed little from the 8.5 x 17 other than in size. There are two important differences between the 45 x 107 and its larger siblings. The first is substitution of a roller blind dark slide. The 45 x 107 used a solid panel. This would not have been possible on the big viewers without making the cabinet much taller. The second difference relates to Richard's design of the 45 x 107 format. Richard included a gap between the two images on the slide. This allowed labeling of the slides. 45 x 107 viewers generally include a means of seeing the central area of the slide. The bigger formats did not have this gap, and therefore the label viewer could be eliminated.

Le Taxiphote Optical Model

The Optical model was intended to overcome one inherent technical flaw in the Taxiphote design. The depth of the slide trays caused slides raised for viewing to be too far back in the cabinet. Longer focal length viewing lenses limited the possible extent of image magnification. The large field lenses visible here were lowered into position between the slide and the viewing objectives, thus further enlarging the image. The field lenses could be set to either raise and lower automatically, or be raised into position manually when desired. Although apparent image size was increased, this came at the expense of significant barrel distortion.

Le Taxiphote Model Mechanique

Here was an extensive effort to fix the magnification problem. The Model Mechanique is a completely new internal design. In this viewer, slides are lifted from the tray and handed over to a transport mechanism which then carries them to the front of the cabinet. Close proximity of the slide to the lenses allows greater magnification. The simple up and down motion of the standard viewer is replaced by rotary motion. To lift a slide, hand it off, move it forward and backward, then drop it back in the tray was quite a feat. Turning the rotary crank handle forward or backward operated the machine in either direction. To accomplish all this without breaking the fragile glass slides was amazing. It came, however, at the expense of reliability. There was also an awkward period as the slide moved forward and backward behind the viewing lenses. To avoid causing headaches, a translucent panel panel mounted on the door blocked the view until the transport was all the way forward. I have done a CLA on one Model Mechanique, and although it seems reliable, I handle it with kiddy gloves. One could really cause a mess trying to force this thing. At some later date I'll pull another one apart and photograph the motion.

Taxiphote Simplifique

Like the Mechanique, the simplified mechanism uses rotary, rather than up and down motion to operate the device. True to its name, there are fewer parts, but I am less a fan of rotary operated machines. In this case, the small positioning detents can be a little tough to feel. This causes a certain amount of hunting to find the right position when you want to manually move the slide tray to a certain position. As there is nothing to keep you from trying to remove the tray with a slide in viewing position, you must also pay attention when changing trays.

Gaumont Stereodrome

Gaumont's rugged mechanism is built into the cabinet. It uses an up and down motion, but to achieve this a short handle is rotated back and forth through 180 degrees. A ratchet moves the tray back into the cabinet, and an image counter/return knob attached by fabric tape indicates the slide number on the front of the cabinet. The weak link on the Gaumont is that fabric. Years of returning the slide tray to the front by pulling down the handle can tear the tape. The mechanism scales reasonably well, but the large, heavy 8.5 x 17 tray causes quite a clunk as it advances.

Mattey Stereothéque

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Regardless of slide format, the Mattey is a poor viewer design. Its' method of turning rotary into linear motion is not very effective. Also, the way the cabinet opens is bizarre and counterintuitive. On one of my Matteys, one can see where a previous owner tried prying two wood panels apart with a screwdriver. Even knowing how the cabinet opens is no guarantee. It tends to stick and offers no good way to gain leverage and force the cabinet open. I'll add photos and a more complete description If ever I bother to CLA one. For now, these are display only viewers.

Ica Multiplast (early)

In a rare example, the Germans appear to have copied a French design and made it worse - not just more complicated, but significantly worse. The Multiplast certainly must be a copy of the Optical Model Taxiphote. There are just too many similarities. Where Ica fell short is in quality of operation. The slide advance ratchet is too small, thus causing a jerky motion. Operation of the slide advance lever is rewarded with a loud clunk. Looking at the photo from above, you can see convoluted white metal lever which goes around the slide. This is designed push the slide label viewing apparatus down into position. In this photo, it can be seen the wanted bending outward to engage the small tab. The field lenses cause much the same distortion as seen in the Taxiphote Optical.

Ica Multiplast (late)

The late style Multiplast employs a much improved design, but with one major flaw. Missing in these photos is the articulated interlocking metal slide tray cover. Whereas Richard used a simple cardboard flap, Ica created a nightmare. The idea was to combine multiple functions. First, when the door was opened, the flap was automatically tilted up out of the way. At the same time, a pivoting arm locked the lifting mechanism so it would not be possible to raise a slide while the door was open. There was a counterweight on the flap, and this combined with a hair spring was intended to move everything when a lever attached to the door was withdrawn. On my example, the hair spring is broken. Attempts by previous owners to cycle the mechanism with this spring broken have led to further damage. Although there is no obvious place for the hairspring to attach, if I ever get around to repairing it, I have a way to make it work. For now, I have removed the flap and lock. With those parts removed, the rotary mechanism offers smooth and positive operation. It is far and away the best rotary mechanism (without the silly flap that is).

Ernemann Magazine

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The Ernemann cannot be considered a serious everyday use device. Although the cabinet itself is a marvel of over-engineering, the operating mechanism is simplistic, and built into the cabinet. Metal parts slide in channels milled into the cabinet sides. This is not a good recipe for smooth operation, and any warping of the wood could cause it to seize. The slide trays are a wonderful combination of finger jointed wood and machined metal. Although operable, mine is strictly a display piece.

Unis Educa

It doesn't get any simpler. The Educa's operating principle is dictated by its unique image plates. Each plate contains 12 overlapping slide pairs. A black wooden frame slides vertically in slots cut into the cabinet. The f rame is manually raised or lowered into viewing position. The lenses are mounted on a sliding panel, which is then moved side to side to line up image pairs. They don't come any simpler than this.

Unis Metascope Universel

Although by no means among the more sophisticated viewers, at least the Metascope's simple mechanism is reliable in action. A direct acting lever pushes down the slide fingers while a basic ratchet advances the slide tray. Other than lifting finger adjustment and lubrication, there isn't much to go wrong here.

Planox Stereoscope Magnetique

Notable primarily for its magnetic slide lifting system, the Planox shares much in common with the Metascope viewers. Where the Planox differs from all other designs is in the fact it uses magnets to lift slides from above. With no lifting fingers, the chances of damaging slides is reduced. If there is a down side, it is in that one must have a supply of barrettes. These were simple spring loaded metal strips, which were attached to the top of each slide. When the operating handle was pushed down, the ratchet would "sweep" the current slide out from under the magnets and and the next slide would be picked up. The magnets were surprisingly strong, so there is little chance of dropping a slide.

Ives' Kromskop

Ives Kromskop Ives KromskopFrederick Ives Kromskop

This is the only member of the group not fed from trays. However, it was loaded with multiple images. Being based on three color process, it took three black and white images to make one color photo. Each slide consisted of three images, one each for red, green and blue (shot through colored filters on the camera), and a labeling panel. The group was held together by fabric tape, and was draped over the viewer. Although there were rough guides, the very nature of the assemblage required some fiddling to achieve alignment of all three colors. Anyone old enough to remember the age of tube TVs may recall the joys of aligning the color guns. Interestingly, although Frederick Ives is not well known today, his Kromskop is a step in the evolution of the three color process which dominates color displays today.