1895 Kinetoscope, the Viviscope – technology as art

1895 Kinetoscope, the Viviscope – technology as art

I found the coolest patent design while looking for something entirely unrelated – an 1895 Kinetoscope, also called the Viviscope. The diagrams are wonderful.

Sketches from an 1895 patent showing parts of a Kinetoscope

Technology as art – the Viviscope by W. C. Farnum, Arlington, Vermont

A kinetoscope was a forerunner of moving pictures machines. They allowed the viewer to watch moving images through a tube or window.

In it, a strip of film was passed rapidly between a lens and an electric light bulb while the viewer peered through a peephole. Behind the peephole was a spinning wheel with a narrow slit that acted as a shutter, permitting a momentary view of each of the 46 frames passing in front of the shutter every second. The result was a lifelike representation of persons and objects in motion. Kinetoscope | Definition, Inventors, History, & Facts | Britannica

The original concept was developed by Thomas Edison, but the work in making a functioning kinetoscope was done by William Kennedy Dickson. Edison, in typical Edison style, took sole credit for its creation, although historians tend to see it as a collaborative effort. Dickson finished work on the kinetoscope by 1892 and Edison patented the work shortly afterwards.

There were several kinetoscope patents filed in the late 1890s, but this one by William Carleton Farnum was the best looking of the lot. Now, that doesn’t mean it would have been functional. But as far as technology as art goes, this one is stunning. The diagrams show a far better attention to detail than many I see during my patent searches.

Patent No. 547,775 was granted to Farnum on Oct. 15, 1895. He envisioned the kinetoscope as a new method for advertising. His design utilized what he called a “transfer roller” to move the pictures instead of mirrors used in other kinetoscope designs.

…wave-movement is applied through the medium of a flexible band which encircles the periphery of a cylinder, so that the slack loop is taken up on a roller, which I have called a “transfer roller,’ and by it can be carried completely around the cylinder very much as the tides move around the earth, and as the wave takes

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1895 Kinetoscope roller showing animated sequences of a man moving

Diagram of the Kinescope roller

When I tried to find information on the inventor nothing came up in my searches, until I turned to European sources and there it was, a working Farnum’s Viviscope.

Photo of W.C. Farnum's Kinetoscope

W.C. Farnum’s 1895 Kinetoscope, Image courtesy La Cinematheque Français

Not only are the design schematics fameworthy, but the entire machine is a work of art. It was manufactured by Elias Bernard Koopman of New York, 50 Union Square, N. Y.  Koopman was one of the founders of American Mutoscope and Biograph Company and is known for his contributions to early cinema. One of the other founders of was William Kennedy Dickson, the same man who worked for Edison. Dickson left Edison’s company shortly after creating the kinetoscope and started the American Mutoscope. It’s an interesting bit of intersecting cinema history,

The Viviscope consisted of a hand driven geared mechanism working on a vertical spindle mounted in a hollow column, attached to the base. Fixed to the top of the column was a platform, having a shallow tin cylinder. An arm carrying a roller fixed to its longest end, was attached to the vertical spindle, which imparted the necessary movement to the paper figure bands and passed each successive picture in the form of a loop, in front of the viewing aperture. The strips of pictures were somewhat similar to those used in the zoetrope, with the exception that the two ends were joined together to form an endless band, and by placing one of these bands of pictures in correct position on the instrument and turning the handle the figures were shipped in rapid sequence from one phase of movement to the next, and when viewed through the framed opening, apparent movement could be observed. It is interesting to read the patent specification of the Viviscope, as the inventor claims for the application of its use as being eminently suitable for advertising purposes in railway trains and for exhibition purposes. There were also suggested different forms, amongst which was a rather elaborate multiple instrument, but it achieved no commercial success”

(Will Day, manuscript, 25,000 Years to Trap a Shadow, archives Cinémathèque française).

“It achieved no commercial success” answered one of the questions I had while researching the machine – what happened to the design? There was quite a bit of competition and despite making it off the drawing board, never found a market. Farnum patented one or two other devices and then seems to have disappeared off the pages of history.

If you like the design, check out the t-shirt,  “1895 Kinetoscope – Antique cameras and film” T-shirt by BitterGrounds | Redbubble. The clean lines in the schematic are appealing and work well on ts etc. Yes, this is a shameless plug for my Redbubble store. Many of these old patents are beautiful and worthy of remembering and celebrating. There is a vibrancy and excitement to the inventions that is contagious.

Photo of a tshirt showing the viviscop diagrams

Technology as art

If you enjoyed this article, I have more early patents here: Articles About History Of Tech | Bitter Grounds Magazine I tend to wander all over the technology map looking for intriguing designs. You never know what will pop up.

Cheers for now.

Norwegian 2021 stamp issues & designers

Norwegian 2021 stamp issues & designers

Subjects and release dates for Norwegian 2021 stamp issues are available. Norwegian post office, Posten, doesn’t have images for the stamps yet, but, as usual, I’ll add them as they come available. Remember to follow Bitter Grounds (links at the bottom of the article) or bookmark this page.

Posten’s website has an archive of previous stamp magazines, Posten Norge Stamp Magazine, dating back to 2016. 5 magazines are published a year and you can download them for future references. If you want to keep the magazine, rather than just read it online, right click on the words “PDF File” and save. It’s available in English as well as Norwegian.

This year will see designer Magnus Rakeng return with a Peter I Island stamp. Rakeng has created a number of sleek fonts you can check out here Nyheter – Melkeveien. He also designed last year’s Polar Motif stamp depicting Jan Mayen island. Other familiar designers are Enzo Finger, Kristin Slotterøy, Camilla Kvien Jensen and Jørn O. Jøntvedt, all of whom contributed designs in 2020.

Subjects for Norway’s 2021 issues will include:

  • Polar motifs
  • City Anniversaries
  • Endangered National Wildlife
  • Railway Centenary
  • Norwegian Association of Hunters and Anglers 150th Anniversary,
  • Farm Animals
  • Research, Innovation, Technology
  • Motorbikes
  • Flag Bicentenary
  • Christmas stamps

Norwegian 2021 stamp issues – Feb

Polar Motifs 
Peter I Øy| Peter I IslandArtist/Designer: Magnus Rakeng

Release date: Feb 19, 2021



Byjubileer | City Anniversaries
Tønsberg , Larvik, LillesandArtist/Designer: Jørn O. Jøntvedt

Release date: Feb 19, 2021

Norwegian 2021 stamp issues – April

Truede dyrearter | Endangered National Wildlife

Artist/Designer: Camilla Kvien Jensen

Release date: April 23, 2021

Dovrebanen 100 | Dovre Railway Line Centenary

Artist/Designer: Trond Bredesen

Release date: April 23, 2021

Norwegian 2021 stamp issues – June

Norges Jeger- og Fiskerforbund 150| Norwegian Association of Hunters and Anglers 150th Anniversary

Artist/Designer: Kristin Slotterøy

Release date: June 11, 2021

Husdyr | Farm Animals

Artist/Designer: Cecilie Sørgård

Release date:  June 11, 2021

Norwegian 2021 stamp issues – Oct

Forskning, innovasjon, teknologi | Research, Innovation, Technology

Artist/Designer: Enzo Finger

Release date: Oct 2, 2021

Mopeder og motorsykler | Mopeds and Motorcycles

Artist/Designer: Erland Dilling

Release date: Oct. 2, 2021

Norwegian 2021 stamp issues – Nov

Norges flagg 200 år | Flag of Norway Bicentenary

Artist/Designer: Camilla Kvien Jensen

Release date: Nov 5, 2021

Julefrimerker | Christmas stamps

Artist/Designer: Lisa Aisato

Release date: Nov 5, 2021

More 2021 county issues available here: Stamps By Country 2021 | Bitter Grounds Magazine


580 articles later – the evolution of a blogger

After 580 + articles, I’ve been thinking about the evolution of a blogger. More precisely, the changes I’ve made to the structure of this website and the content that drives it. It’s interesting going through older posts and re-editing them. That act has provided some insight into how Bitter Grounds Magazine has unfolded over the decades.

Evolution of a blogger – 1994 to Catpaw’s Blog

I started in 1994, or there abouts, with a simple one-page website. This was in the Netscape 1, pre-tables days. I wasn’t using the Catpaw moniker yet, that came shortly after I set the site up. I tried to find it on the Wayback Machine, but unfortunately it seems to have melted into the ether. As I was writing this, I realised in 2024, I’ll have been blogging for 30 years. I’ll have to throw a party. At first, it was simply a fun little space to post random thoughts and silly things. That’s back in the tilde days when most of our sites were attached to an internet provider and looked like this www.internetprovider.com/ ~catpaw. The addresses weren’t elegant.

I was among the first customers to sign up for the shiny new internet service. The fellow who ran the ISP was good. He helped me get my first design job and taught me a lot about the basics of the both the Internet & the fledgling web design business. He loved sharing his knowledge with anyone who wanted to listen. Total, wonderful tech geek.

I purchased my first full-fledged web site sometime after the turn of the century. It was at that time I switched to using catpaw, a name I acquired during my BBS days.  It took me awhile, but I found the site on the Wayback Machine and scooped my old logo.

Original logo for Catpaw Chronicles, the precursor to Bitter Grounds - Evolution of a blogger

I was damned proud of this logo

I don’t use the venerable cat silhouette any longer but occasionally think I should dust him off. He no longer fits into the format though. It was at this point I was trying to structure the site and bring a bit of planning to both the design and content. This was pre-WordPress days, so each post was created as an individual page. It wasn’t as simple as the big backend database holding and sorting all the content and formatting, we use now. It was all done manually.

Lot of content was lost because every change meant deciding what to do with older stuff. Websites could quickly descend into an unwieldy mess.  I knew I wanted to run a magazine format but couldn’t quite get there. The content remained static until I tried Blogger for a while. It allowed me to setup a fledgling structure and play around with the vision I had for a website.

I also dabbled in WordPress, but at the time it lacked flexibility. I wanted multiple categories with constantly changing content. WP didn’t allow for it. We didn’t have the option to post to multiple categories. It was around 2008 I discovered Joomla and its amazing abilities to let me setup a magazine style site. I never really mastered it, but I had a hell of a lot of fun. Over the next couple of years, the content began changing. I was doing more than posting periodic thoughts and explored topics I loved to share with people.

Bitter Grounds is born & nothing happens

Oh, and the name Bitter Grounds? I had just finished reading Neil Gaiman’s Bitter Grounds and thought “that would make a great name for a magazine”. It can be interpreted in several ways. I was sure the title was taken, so colour me surprised when I found out no one had. I paid my money and switched everything over to bittergrounds.com sometime in 2014. I think. Time has a habit of playing games with memory, so I might be a little off in my dates.

One odd thing happened. By 2015 I stopped writing about politics. By nature, I’m a political animal. but it had become too exhausting and divisive. I guess, it ceased being fun discussing. In the process, my writing started to become erratic. I’d get a big surge of energy and write like mad and then peter off. Consistency is important if you want a successful website and I just couldn’t maintain momentum.

I started rethinking what I was interested in writing about – stamps, history, technology, design and eventually photography.  I remember sitting on the balcony mulling over my limitations when it came to creating a magazine. It wasn’t Joomla, it was my lack of skills with the backend of the software and time commitments to master it.

The crisis that triggered change

In the summer of 2016 Mom was diagnosed with cancer and everything turned upside down. If you’ve ever dealt with a cancer diagnosis, then you know it’s like being swept up in a tsunami. Life is no longer your own, it is dictated by endless visits to hospitals and appointments. I stopped writing for a long time. I just had nothing to say.

Looking back on the past four years has made me rethink a lot of my views. I’m surprised by the combination of inertia and despair and what a toll it took. Now? I have lots to say, including what I was thinking at the time but couldn’t put it into words. I think, for the first time in my life, words were not available to me during that time span. And that’s a scary thing for me. Words are something I always found strength in, a source of joy. When I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted, I felt like a large part of me was missing. So, I stopped trying.

In 2018, during a good period in Mom’s cancer care, she suggested I start getting serious about writing again. She knew something I wasn’t fully aware of – that I’m happiest when I’m writing. I still laugh when I remember her telling me I get grumpy when I don’t write.

Once again, Mom was crucial in the change. It was her suggestion that I try to be more personal, bring more of myself into the site. No, not the politics, which I well and truly torpedoed in the re-design. She meant, express more excitement about things I loved. Allow readers to “hear” what she hears when I talk about various topics. Also, let people know who I am, make the website more personal. She was right. Things became fun to again.

I wanted a magazine. Not a site where I complain about shit in life. I wanted to explore ideas and share my excitement about drawing, photography, stamps – oh the stamps I love – and technology. That’s what had been missing, that sense of exploration and unbridled joy at learning something new.

Was it too much to tackle?

Onwards to a Bitter Grounds Magazine remake & 580 articles later

I sat down with paper and pencil and drew up how I wanted Bitter Grounds Magazine to look.  All fine and dandy, but I felt that old sense of frustration with Joomla creep back in. I lacked certain skills in using it and quite honestly, was too tired to try and learn how to change the back end. It felt cumbersome. I wasn’t happy with ready-made templates though because they didn’t share my vision.

Then a friend stepped in. Cory suggested I try WordPress again but use Divi to make it create the structure I so desperately wanted. He’s a skilled craftsman who gave me a lift when I needed it. Website Creation, Design, Maintenance, and More – MidState Design <- that’s him. He doesn’t know I’ve added this, but he was instrumental in kick starting Bitter Grounds Magazine back into life.

Devastating loss & an epiphany about the website

2019 started off badly but there were still rays of hope. 2020 came and blew that out the door. When Mom died in April, I was crushed. I still haven’t gotten over it. I still cry. And feel lost at times.

While I sat by mom’s bed, I debated about ending the website permanently. The idea of continuing seemed impossible. I kept thinking why bother. It’s funny the things your brain latches onto when it’s trying to anchor itself. I emailed back and forth with a friend throughout the long week and she told me “NO” that was not acceptable. That’s what friends are for – to stop you from doing stupid things.  I kept it and wrote sporadically, and quite honestly, half-heartedly throughout spring and summer.

Categories come; categories go

You may notice how many posts are shorter than in previous years. I stopped trying to write War and Peace and started working towards producing, briefer, focused articles. (Except for this one.) I have 28 drafts ready for formatting and proofing, so I always have something to post even during those periods when I’m not in the mood to write.

I also made changes in categories and altered the design … again. Oct to Dec were productive months. I kept tweaking the design until I felt I was approaching what I have been looking for. Some categories were merged, and a few new ones created.  I’m not afraid to change things up now. If something isn’t working don’t hang onto it. Remove or change it. What’s the sense in keeping a format or category that no longer fits?

Final thoughts

It’s nice to have that sense of joy in writing return. I didn’t realise it was missing until it was nearly too late. The most powerful tool a blogger has is insight into why they create. Had it not been for friends, I would never have achieved it. So, to all of you, thank you.

2021 Faroe Islands stamps list

2021 Faroe Islands stamps list

2021 Faroe Islands stamps start the year by celebrating 150 years of Postal History on the Islands and Denmark. The year will also see a couple stamps for bird collectors. Fourteen subjects have been announced as well as photos for most of the issues. Some of the upcoming topics include:

  • 150 years of postal history
  • Transplanted – immigration stories
  • Royal Visit in the Faroe Islands in 1921 –
  • C. Z. Slania 100 Years
  • Christmas

Seeing all the Postal anniversaries around the world this year gives me an idea for a new niche to collect – Post Office Anniversaries. Or History of Mail Delivery on stamps.

If you collect Danish stamps, this year will be fun to get. The stamps are beautiful and tap into a rich vein of Island history and landmarks. Don’t forget to check back periodically for updates on stamp information. If I gather more info on the designers, I’ll drop extra information in.

2021 Faroe Islands stamps January

2021 Faroe Islands - 150 years of postal history

150 Years of Postal Service

150 years of Postal History

Special post mark for Torshavn Post office

Special post mark for Torshavn Post office

Two anniversaries in one – the 150th anniversary of the Danish Postal Services Act (1871) and the 45th anniversary of Faroe Island takeover of the Danish postal administration within Faroe Islands.

This year the Faroe Islands will celebrate two postal related anniversaries. The first is the 150th anniversary of the Danish Postal Service’s Postal Act of 7 January 1871, when the Faroe Islands became a part of the Danish postal area for the first time.

The second is the 45th anniversary of the Faroe Islands’ takeover of the Faroese branch of the Danish postal administration. On 1 April 1976, Postverk Føroya, later Posta, was established and became responsible for mail deliveries in the Faroe Islands, as well as the issuing of Faroese postage stamps.

See Stamps.fo for a great writeup on the history behind the stamp.

We have chosen to celebrate the two anniversaries with an anecdotal look back in time at fragments of Faroese postal history. These little tales are told on a souvenir sheet containing three stamps.

Three stamps on a mini sheet (aka mini sheet), first day cancel, FDC + sheetlet

Designer: Kári við Rættará
Kári við Rættará previously designed the 2020 stamp British Field Post Offices in the Faroe Islands.

Release date: Jan 7, 2021

2021 Faroe Islands February

Scan of Faroe Island souvenir sheet of 6 stamps

Transplanted – immigration stories

Transplanted – immigration stories

Six stamps, a souvenir sheet + two posters

Joel Cole, a Faroese American, celebrates the immigrant experience, both as a universal element of
the human story and through the particulars of his own life

Designer: Joel Cole

Release date: February 19, 2021

Two stamps showing Faroe Islands

Faroe Island villages Kirkja & Hattarvík

Villages: Kirkja & Hattarvík

Two stamps in the series.

Released in a self-adhesive booklet containing 6 stamps + 2 postcards

Release date: February 19, 2021

The Eysturoy Tunnel, an Underwater Roundabout

The Eysturoy Tunnel, an Underwater Roundabout

The Eysturoy Tunnel, an Underwater Roundabout

Two stamps in the series.

Artwork by local artist Tróndur Patursson

Release date: February 19, 2021

2021 Faroe Islands March

Faroe Island stamp showing Árting was chairwoman of the Tórshavn’s Working Women’s Association for 40 years.

Árting was chairwoman
of the Tórshavn’s Working Women’s

Andrea Árting – equal pay for equal work

Chairperson for the Tórshavn’s Working Women’s Association for 40 years

Designer: Eli Petersen 

Release date: March 8, 2021

2021 Faroe Islands April

TBA Sepac 2021: The Faroes on Historical Maps II

1 stamp + mini sheet

Designer: Kim Simonsen

Release date: April 26, 2021

2021 Faroe Island stamps showing puffins

Atlantic Puffins

Europa 2021: Endangered National Wildlife, the Atlantic Puffin

Two stamps, a self-adhesive booklet with six stamps + two postcards

Photos: Thomas Vikre and Jógvan Hansen

Release date: April 26, 2021

3 Faroe Island stamps showing cows

Cattle on Faroe Islands


Three stamps

“Until the 1970s, many Faroese families had a cow in the basement”

Artist: Ole Wich

Release date: April 26, 2021


2021 Faroe Islands August

C. Z. Slania 100 Years anniversary

C. Z. Slania court engraver

C. Z. Slania 100 Years

One stamp + one mini-sheet

100th anniversary of birth Polish born Swedish court engraver Czeslaw Slania. Responsible for 100 Faroe Island stamp designs

Artist/engraver: Martin Mörck

Release date: Aug 12, 2021

2021 Faroe Islands Sept.

TBA Salt – Sound Art & Live Theater

2 stamps + mini sheet

The old salt silo from 1938 has been renovated and rebuilt for the cultural center SALT
– Sound Art & Live Theater.

Photos: Fotostudio.

Release date: Sept. 27, 2021

Royal Visit in the Faroe Islands in 1921

Royal Visit in the Faroe Islands in 1921

Royal Visit in the Faroe Islands in 1921

Two stamps

Commemorating 1921 Faroe Islands visit by King Christian X.

Release date: Sept. 27, 2021 

Christmas Stamps: Bishop’s Robes

Christmas Stamps: Bishop’s Robes

Christmas Stamps: Bishop’s Robes

Two stamps, a self-adhesive booklet with six stamps + two postcards

Final stamps in the series church paraments.

Release date: Sept. 27, 2021 

2021 Faroe Islands October


2021 Faroe Islands November







2 Streets of Toronto photos – dusk in the city

2 Streets of Toronto photos – dusk in the city

Finally, some new streets of Toronto photos. I was on a job downtown yesterday afternoon and thought, what a great chance to try out a few new techniques I’ve been reading about. I wasn’t disappointed.

The secret to improving is to keep reading and examining photos from accomplished photographers. I often tear apart components in a picture, trying to figure out what it is about that image that I find attractive. I love night photography – the warm, yellow glow coming from buildings, the changing colours of darkening sky, the way headlights streaks offer a sense of motion to the evening.  But it’s frustrating to capture. One site I’ve been studying made a recommendation that set all sorts of bells go off in my head.

Use the camera’s histogram.

I know I’ve read this before, and I use it extensively with Photoshop, but this time, it made resonated. Not sure why it did, but we’ll just enjoy the epiphany for a bit. I’ve prepared two of the photos to show. One I converted to black and white, the other I left in full colour.

Streets of Toronto photos

After setting up the tripod, I fussed with a number of settings and just watched the histogram bounce around. Adjustment, after adjustment and a couple of test shots and I was good to go.

Streets of Toronto photos showing Yonge street at night

Yonge near Front Street

This was fun. I found a good focus point and waited. Thank goodness for the remote clicker. Saved my hands from freezing off. This photo looked good in full colour, but the black and white brought out the mirror effect in the tall building. Instead of seeing just cars coming, my eye was drawn to reflections. I’m still working on the rest from this spot and will post more later in the week.

Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame

I’ve taken more photos of the Hockey Hall of Fame than I care to think about. It’s not easy to get. A lot is happening on that corner of Yonge and Front and that makes getting a good shot difficult. But, I have to say, this picture makes me happy.

Streets of Toronto photos - Hockey Hall of Fame from the outside

Hockey Hall of Fame with a truck whizzing by

This was epic. When I set up on the corner of Front and Yonge, suddenly the traffic evaporated. And I wanted to capture their lights. I waited and waited. Finally, cars and trucks appeared.

The warm yellows and deep blue came out so well in this series of shots. The building remained in focus and the street signs tie the photo together. I managed to capture the truck rushing by as well. I did a little happy dance on the street when I reviewed this one. So, yea, if you were down near the Hockey Hall of Fame last night and saw a small woman dancing around a tripod, that was me.

I shouldn’t be, but I’m surprised at the sharpness. It all boils down to using the tripod and watching the histogram. There were no blown highlights, so I had lots of room for adjustments in Lightroom. I think, this is the first set of photos I’ve taken that I’m truly proud of because of all the work I put into understanding the basics.

I have more photos to process, so check back later in the week for another round. Also, in March there will be a super moon, which is why I’m so hot on learning more. Fingers crossed the weather will cooperate.  Check out these earlier night shots I took in December and compare them to these new ones. Research & experimentation my friends. That’s the secret.

3 Toronto’s Skyline At Night Photos | Bitter Grounds Magazine