The psychedelic and grotesque proto-GIFs of the 19th century | The Verge
Richard Balzer’s love affair began about 40 years ago, when he saw his first magic lantern — an early image projector invented in the 1600s. The experience would prove transformative.
“I was just stunned,” he says. “I think I fell in love.”
Balzer, a New York native, was working abroad as a photographer at the time, but the encounter kindled a dormant passion that would persist for decades. He began scouring for magic lanterns at flea markets across London and Paris, and soon expanded his collection as he learned more about early animation technology. Today, he has thousands of illustrations and machines at his Boston-area home, including phenakistoscopes, praxinoscopes, and zoetropes — all “optic toys” that were, in effect, the world’s first GIF-making machines.