Photographic proof of the isolator


Thanks to 50 Watts for posting this photo of The Isolator from Hugo Gernsback's Science and Invention in 1925. See the cover I posted yesterday. (Via A Great Disorder)


  1. And that was to isolate you from… uh, the phone? The sound of typewriters?

    What do we need now in order to isolate us from phone, cell, TV, Facetime, e-mail, Facebook, fax, open concept offices… man, they could not have a helmet thick enough.

    1. No need to apologize! It’s a photograph that was retouched by hand. This was very popular in the era.

      1. I think it goes a bit beyond retouching. The entire gas cylinder and hose appear to be a hand drawn illustration pasted into the picture. No shadow on the desktop, for one, and they screwed up the perspective on the valve.

        Not sure what’s going on with the M.C. Escher phone, either.

        I’m wondering if the air cylinder was added later to assuage fears of being sued by the families of people suffocated with their own homebrew isolators.

        I’m also wondering if ol’ Hugo was more than a little bit ADHD.

  2. Years ago I picked up Alex Grey’s earplugs with the sleep mask and liked the idea of wearing just the earplugs throughout the day. They were a dark colour so I switched to fluorescent ones that stick out of my ears, and then people are forced to not engage with you at certain times. *win*

    1. I did the colorful earplug trick at a former place of employment where the boss would. not. stop. interrupting. me. when I had a critical deadline to meet.  When I took one out to use the phone, however, he would pounce (our desks faced each other in an open-plan studio).

      That was when I realized I needed to quit.

  3. I would hope it lets you focus on the task at hand, because it sure doesn’t look like you’d even be able to see anything else.

    Of course, once the lenses fog up all bets are off.

  4. I’m uncertain why the isolator is always depicted as being fed from a small pressurized tank. Why not just vent air in from the surroundings?

  5. I asked on the other Isolator thread and didn’t get any speculators, but what’s the proboscis on the front accomplish?  I want to make sure that my recreation is historically accurate.

    Some also recommend a second appliance for ultimate concentration, but I chafe easily.

  6. Also see this great Life photo of Gernsback in his TV Glasses:

    “Hugo Gernsback – A Man Well Ahead of His Time,” a bio apparently commissioned by Gernsback before he died, is available as a $6.99 kindle ebook. Description:  “Known most commonly as ‘The Father of Science Fiction,’ Hugo Gernsback was an amazing person. After coming to the United States in February 1904, from Luxenbourg, he founded an electronics publishing business that went from Modern Electrics in 1908 through Poptronics in 2002. In between there were ventures into Sexology, Flying, Science Fiction, and many other titles. A prolific inventor with some 50 patents to his name, his life story is fascinating to say the least.  This biography was found in a musty old box when we closed down the business in 2002. It was written for Hugo at his request and the original manuscript pages bear his hand-written comments and corrections.”

    I love how even the man’s biography sounds like a hoax.

  7. Seems like just the thing for the autistic child.  You could gradually replace the helmet with thinner ones as they learned to deal with more sensory input.  Make you stand out a bit amongst your peers but that’s going to happen anyway.

  8. Earthquakes! Burglars!  Your House is on Fire!!!

    Do you like your isolation now, smart guy?  

    (as to the protruding area; it must be where he hides the candy bars…)

    1. I’m still betting on that being a pencil sharpener, perhaps a pneumatic one, with power provided by the gas cylinder.

  9. The guy was just sending up his readers, and would be delighted to know a new generation of gulls is scratching their heads and proclaiming the utter impracticality of his great invention.
    “Why that…splutter splutter….that can’t work, what if the phone rang or, or, or he dropped his pencil, and and and what if his child wanted to kiss him”!
    Hilarious , Hugo Gernsback (if that is your name).

  10. I like how his most important credential, apparently, is “Member, American Physical Society” – the type of society (like the Geological Society of America, which I’m a member of) that anyone can join.

Comments are closed.