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Dead medium: The General Electric Show 'N Tell
From: (Eleanor J. Barnes)
Source(s): I own one. GENERAL ELECTRIC SHOW 'N TELL (R)
Phono-Viewer and Phonograph

A hybrid medium aimed at children was the GE Show 'N Tell,

a device for simultaneously playing a phonograph record

and displaying a synchronized filmstrip. The record was

the size of a 45, but played at 33 1/3 rpm. The

filmstrip, with about 12 frames on what appeared to be

16mm film, was housed in a rigid cardboard or plastic

strip, with a tab at the top for easy removal from the


The display resembled a television screen, but was

actually nothing more than a magnifier for a given frame

of the filmstrip. The phonograph was on the top of the

"TV" set. It could also be used to play 45-sized records

(at either 33 1/3 or 45rpm) without viewing a filmstrip.

Each topic consisted of a folder containing a

filmstrip and accompanying record. The "A" side of the

record was to be played synchronized with the filmstrip.

The "B" side was related audio (such as a song) on the

same topic, but was not intended to be played with the

filmstrip. A "light-saver" switch allowed the video

display (i.e. the lightbulb) to be turned off while

playing the "B" side, or any record not designed for

filmstrip synchronization.

To play a record with filmstrip, one started by

turning on the set, setting the turntable speed switch to

"N", and rotating the turntable by hand until an indicator

line appeared in a small window next to the turntable.

Otherwise synchronization could be off. One then set the

record "A" side up on the turntable, and set the tone arm

by hand at the beginning of the record.

The slot for the filmstrip was in the top of the

set, to the right of the turntable. One had to move the

tone arm to gain access to the slot, one reason why you

had to set the tone arm on the record before inserting the

filmstrip. One slid the filmstrip into the slot as far as

it would go, limited by the large tab at the top of the

filmstrip; then adjusted so that the first frame of the

film was properly centered on the screen. A lever in the

side of the set adjusted the focus.

Moving the turntable speed switch to "33" started

the record. Synchronization of the film to the audio was

then automatic.

Well over 100 filmstrip/record sets were available

for the GE Show 'N Tell. Categories included Disney

characters, Fairy Tales, Children's Classics (Heidi,

Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, etc.), Christmas, Fun

with Facts (Dinosaurs, Indians, Wright Bros., etc.), and

Captain Kangaroo. Some titles that surprised me were

"Hans Brinker and [sic] the Silver Skates" (properly

"Hans Brinker, or, the Silver Skates"), "Huckleberry

Finn," and, most surprising of all, "Jane Eyre." Needless

to say, longer and more complex stories such as "Jane

Eyre" suffered even greater oversimplification than

"Children's Classics" such as "Treasure Island."

Eleanor J. Barnes (