Glasses – Or Spectacles – Through The Ages! (Or – Be Amazed At How Lenses Have Changed Even Through My Lifetime)

I was looking through some more stuff at my Dad’s house today when I found a pair of my old glasses.  This gave me the idea of giving you a bit of a tour of how lenses (and frames) have changed – even during the 40 odd years I have been on this planet.

I hope you find this post interesting and informative – even if you have never worn glasses in your life.

Glasses – Half of the time it seems I cannot live with them but I certainly cannot function without them.

I could bore you to death by discussing the practical differences between a Lenticular lens, a Blended Lenticular lens, Fresnell lenses, and Contact Lenses.  But I thought I would attempt to show you instead.

First off I think I should tell you that – if you are hoping to find any photographic evidence of me wearing contact lenses in this blog post you will be extremely disappointed.  Luckily for me – the selection of photos I had to choose from did not include any of these offending photographs.  (To say I hated wearing Contact Lenses is an understatement – the only thing worse is having to look at photographs of myself during either of those periods in my life.)

I am going to start with two photographs which may shock you.


Trust me – it is me.


If you see the current version of this creature wandering around in public unsupervised – get help immediately – or take it to the nearest optician.  It will probably inform you that it has either lost or broken its glasses.  A photo showing what it looks like now will be at the end of this blog post. (This photo was taken in my favourite place on Planet Earth – Schiebroek in Rotterdam.)

The second photo is my favourite photo of me without glasses.

Did you notice something strange about the above photos???

You are correct – no glasses.  I will go one stage further and say – no form of corrective eyewear whatsoever (including contact lenses).

I can imagine what you are thinking now – “but you keep telling us you have been seriously shortsighted all your life.  Have you been lying to us all this time???”.

Nope – I am not too sure about this but I get the general idea that I only started wearing glasses when it was obvious that I would be let loose in public without any member of my family being around.  As in – when I started at playschool.  I know I was definitely wearing them when I started at Primary School.

Until I started wearing glasses I was never allowed out of the sight and supervision of members of my family – life at that point was literally a blur.

I have seen the first pair of frames I ever wore – I just cannot find any photographic evidence of them.  They were gold metal with springs around the ears so they didn’t fall off.  (Springs around the ears would have been very useful for the next several pairs of glasses I had, as would metal frames – I went through frames like they were going out of fashion when I was in my first few years at Primary School.)

The next two photos will give you some idea of what my first few frames looked like.


Side view of one of the first pairs of glasses I wore.  (The lady in the photo is mt Grandma Great – my English Grandma’s Mum.)


If you want to know how bad the NHS frames I was made to wear when I was at Primary School looked just imagine the frame worn by the lady bottom left of the photo in pale pink or a strange blue colour.  (Four generations of my Dad’s side of the family – Clockwise from top left; Granddad, Dad, English Grandma, Grandma Great, me, Grandma Phyllis – Granddad’s Mum)

If you want to make me feel jealous just sit me in an Optician’s and make me watch the Primary School age children choosing frames.  I know this is going to make me sound elderly but – when I was their age I had a choice of one frame and two colours – insipid pale pink and a horrible blue.

The lenses I was forced to wear didn’t exactly do me any favours either.  Whether it came to people looking at me or me trying to look at people I was on to a loser both ways.

Here now follows a quick crash course in lenses for you;

A Lenticular lens is the worst lens ever invented – both from the point of view (excuse the pun) of those looking at it and those attempting to look through it.

Looking at it you will be reminded of glass Coca Cola bottles – the bottoms of them.  The eyes behind them will look not unlike currants – and the glass around the perimeter of the lens will look awful too.

What you will not realise – unless you have experience of trying to look through them – is they are not unlike blinkers for horses.  You can only see through the middle of them.  If you want to look left or right you have to physically move your head in that direction – what appears to be waste glass at the sides actually is waste glass because you cannot see a thing through it.

If your optician attempts to tell you they (or the next lens we will come to) are the cheapest option I would suggest you fire your Optician (preferably via a Cannon) and send them back to school to brush up on their Maths – with particular attention to proportions and averages.  They may be the cheapest lenses in theory but – trust me – they are the most expensive lenses for what you can actually see out of them.  Experience tells me Lenticular lenses are a waste of good glass.  They are also extremely heavy because they are hardly ever made of plastic.

Next we have an invention called Blended Lenticular lenses.  Whoever came up with this idea should be parked in front of a Firing Squad if you ask me.

The “Blended” bit of the name is a bit of a con.

It is still a Lenticular lens but – instead of the obvious “step” between the side walls of the lens and the useful bit (as in the Lenticular lens) – they blended the sidewalls into the middle.  This still leaves you with limited sideways vision compared to “widescreen” lenses like the ones we will come to next – just not quite as limited as the Lenticular lenses.


Now this is a view of a Blended Lenticular lens which you hardly ever see.  The outside edge around the frame.


A view you are possibly more used to seeing – as in the front view.

Between going from Plastic Frames to metal frames I was encouraged to try Contact Lens.  I was between 9 and 12 years old at this point.  As a result I can understand why the age limit has now been set at either 16 or 18 years old – I was way too young to try them.

I would not recommend Contact Lenses as a way of finding out you suffer from Photophobia – also known as your eyes being sensitive to bright lights.  Put it this way – Contact Lenses were brilliant at night but next to useless during the day.  My Mum kept telling me to open my eyes – what she didn’t realise was my eyes were open just enough to see what I was looking at.  The other drawback to the first dose of Contact Lenses was that they were small and clear.

Let’s just say that I was in school on more than one occassion with the left lens in the right eye and vice versa.  The first thing I knew about it was – instead of my vision being improved by the addition of contact lenses to my eyeballs – it was actually made worse (due to my left eye always being a lot weaker than my right eye).  Good job I was used to wandering around reasonably safely on flat surfaces without my glasses on.  That is before you consider the dangers of the lens wandering around the eyeball if they were either not put in correctly or decided to go walkabouts after you put them in.  Another pain – literally – was dust and sand.  Get either of those in your eye when you are wearing Contact Lenses and everybody in the surrounding area will know about it very quickly – it hurts.

Around the time I was 18 years of age the same optician talked me into getting another pair of Contact Lenses on the pretense that they would be cheaper than buying another pair of glasses.  To cut a very long story short I fell out with the optician as a direct result of that and took my business elsewhere.

This pair of Contact Lenses had two minor (and – to my mind – pointless) differences compared with the first lot.

The first difference was the size of them.  Instead of merely fitting over the pupil they fitted over the iris.  (If you ask me they should have been made so they could fit over the entire eyeball – that way I might have had a chance of seeing them when I dropped them on the floor.)

I could have lived with the second difference if it had been taken one stage further (so it could have been more useful to me when I was wearing them).  The bright spark decided that he was going to issue me with a blue contact lens for my left eye and a grey one for my right eye.  Now – had the tints been like sunglasses instead of purely “decoration” – I might not have given up on them so quickly (I might even still be wearing them now – but I doubt it somehow).

If there was one glasses wearer who I was always slightly jealous of it was my Mum.

Her sight was better than mine so she got to choose nicer frames (at least until my lenses started to get slightly thinner – I only got to choose really nice frames when I got my “widescreen” lenses).


See what I mean??? My Mum is wearing a nice pair of frames – which my lenses would never fit into at that point – whilst I am wearing horrible lenses and frames.  (Mum is on the left of the photo.)

What a difference a few changes of optician and a upgrade in lenses makes.

More to the point – what a few differences they make.


Up To Date photo with current glasses on my nose.

Fresnell Lenses have opened up a range of possiblities for me.

My glasses are lighter for a start.  The lenses are nowhere near as thick as either the Lenticular lenses or the Blended Lenticular lenses.

This means that I can wear them all day long without my nose (or my ears) complaining about excessive weight being parked on them.

I can also choose almost any frame in an Optician I so desire.  No more having to worry about the ratio between the size of the frame and the weight of the lenses.  (I was sick to death of having to opt for smaller and smaller frames to keep the weight down – it got to the stage where I felt like I was looking through a letterbox).  Trust me when I say Fresnell lenses are “widescreen” lenses – I can see nearly as far around as everybody else now just by moving my eyes left and right (OK so the end point of my lenses is still the end point of my clear vision but I have to look a lot further left and right before I hit that extreme.)

However – the best bit about Fresnell lenses as far as I am concerned is the fact my last few pairs of glasses have been Transitions (or “Reactolite”).  Gone are the days when I saw really nice prescription sunglasses which I had zero chance of wearing because my prescription was too strong.

Oh – yes – I was going to show you an up to date equivalent of my favourite photograph wasn’t I???


Different country but luckily for you I knew exactly where I was when I decided to take this photo today (otherwise I would not have dared to attempt such a stunt in public view).  I was on my way home when I took it.

Well – that concludes the lecture on “Spectacles Through The Ages”.

If you have any more questions feel free to ask me.

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