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  1. #1
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    Default Mysterious Machine

    Can anyone tell me what this machine is?
    screen-shot-2021-08-20-10.55.22-am.jpg

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    Run for your life, don't tangle with it. While the photo is a limited in what detail is shows, I have a hunch the 'mysterious machine' is likely a fluoroscope machine from the 1940's-50's used in shoe stores. Back then, the sales gimmick was to have customers, particularly children, have their feet X-rayed as a means of determining best fit for shoes. Fluoroscope was a variation of the X-ray, getting the image on a screen rather than on a photographic plate.

    Those machines never had much, if any, radiation shielding. Shoe store personnel were X-raying customers' feet without any training in radiography or radiation safety (no film badges, no dosimeters). Customers as well as shoe store personnel were exposed to X rays anytime these units were used, which was often whenever a customer was to be fitted for shoes.

    Customers put their feet on the tread plate at the bottom of the machine so that their feet lined up with the cathode ray tube. Shoe store personnel pushed the button and what amounted to an X-ray image appeared on the screen under the 'shade'. Image was an X ray of the foot which was supposed to be useful in fitting shoes. If the machine is what I am guessing it is (call this a WAG, wild ass guess), there will be some vacuum tube circuits and power transformers inside the wood cabinet, and an X-ray tube might be in the 'inward sloped' front section, aimed at the tread plate. X ray beam went thru the foot, got reflected back up and projected onto the underside of the screen, which was some kind of photo sensitive coated glass.

    As a kid, my parents took us to a pediatrician for regular checkups. This doctor had a fluoroscope machine in his office, which was in his house. Solo practitioner as was common back then. Every single checkup included a fluoroscope of our abdominal and chest areas. As a kid, also, I was familiar with my father's Craftsman table saw. I knew what ripping lumber on that table saw was about. Dad used a guard with a 'splitter' when he ripped some lumber. When Dad turned on the motor on his table saw, the sound of it running was something I knew well. I was told that the fluoroscope machine was 'just to let the doctor take a look inside you'. The doctor put on a lead apron and lead gloves to use the fluoroscope machine. When he fired it up, the cooling blower sounded just like the old man's table saw. The fluoroscope screen which was positioned over our bodies reminded me of the splitter guard on the old man's table saw. The fact the doctor put on the apron and long gloves just added fuel to my imagination. Tell a 4 year old that 'this won't hurt a bit, the doctor just wants to look inside you...', and all I could imagine was the fluoroscope unit was a table saw, I was going to get ripped in two for the 'look inside', and the doctor was wearing the apron and gloves to keep his clothing clean from the blood and gore. I'd seen the bandsaws in use at the local butcher's shop, so knew what sawing a carcass was about. When I'd have a checkup with the pediatrician, I was usually agreeable until the matter of the fluoroscope came up. I'd break free, bolt out the door of his office/house, and bolt down the street. I'd holler that I was not about to get ripped in two on the doctor's table saw. God alone knows why the doctor insisted on using his fluoroscope machine at every checkup. But, it was the 1950's, and shoe stores aside from the doctor were all using fluoroscopes freely.

    Those were the days of neighborhood shoe stores rather than big box stores in shopping malls. Franchised shoe stores like Thom McAnn, Buster Brown, National, and Florsheim all had local stores on shopping streets. The fluoroscope machines were in use not only in the local stores, but in some department stores like Macy's as I recall. Different times, and this was a gimmick to convince customers, particularly mothers of young children whose 'bones were still forming and growing' as to the need for a more precise way of fitting their kids' shoes. I am sure plenty of shoe store personnel suffered the effects of excessive exposure to X rays as a result.

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    Joe, that was my guess when I first looked at the picture.

    I would advise the OP to avoid this machine.

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    X-rays are EM radiation, not something radioactive.

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    X-rays and radioactive materials produce the same radiation, just different energies and wavelength. Both have to be handled carefully.

    Tom

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    Don't think it's a shoe store machine.
    Doesn't resemble either of those pictured in this link: Shoe-fitting fluoroscope - Wikipedia
    Last edited by reggie_obe; 08-21-2021 at 09:17 AM.

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    Gamma radiation is very high energy em radiation produced (on earth anyway) by certain radioactive decay. The difference between gamma and x-rays besides the energy is that the x-rays disappear when the machine is off. A machine that makes x-rays is no different from a microwave oven in that regard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by reggie_obe View Post
    Don't think it's a shoe shore machine.
    Doesn't resemble either of those pictured in this link: Shoe-fitting fluoroscope - Wikipedia
    Like Joe, I am old enough to have seen my foot bones in one of those things. There were three viewing ports, one for me, one for Mom and one for the salesman. I think maybe the salesman had a pointer that he could use to show how the shoe fit at different places.

    In 1950, I got a Gilbert atomic energy lab for Christmas. It had radioactive samples and a Geiger counter.
    Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory - Wikipedia

    Larry

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    Quote Originally Posted by MrStretch View Post
    Gamma radiation is very high energy em radiation produced (on earth anyway) by certain radioactive decay. The difference between gamma and x-rays besides the energy is that the x-rays disappear when the machine is off. A machine that makes x-rays is no different from a microwave oven in that regard.
    I haven't noticed too many people putting their feet in a microwave and flipping it on these days.......

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    Try it. Not only will it not turn on but it won't produce an image of the bones in your your foot. My point is that an old machine that made x-rays is not dangerous as long as you don't try to use it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by L Vanice View Post
    Like Joe, I am old enough to have seen my foot bones in one of those things. There were three viewing ports, one for me, one for Mom and one for the salesman. I think maybe the salesman had a pointer that he could use to show how the shoe fit at different places.

    In 1950, I got a Gilbert atomic energy lab for Christmas. It had radioactive samples and a Geiger counter.
    Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory - Wikipedia

    Larry
    That is awesome...I want one l

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    I can tell you what it is not, it is not a shoe fitting fluoroscope. The is an operator seated at the machine, she has some type of wand with which appears to be thin plastic or fabric tube attached. The wand appears like a lens or a set of lens's similar to an opera glass. On top of the structure to the right is a electric motor with a blower housing below. The function of the telephone receiver shaped object below the motor is unknown, perhaps a filter. The slotted nature of the tray at the bottom indicates that air is to be drawn into the machine, not as a catch tray, as there is no apparent means of removing the tray for cleaning. The viewing screen is a puzzle, it is not a screen such as a comparator, it appears to be frosted. Also unknown is the rounded housing on the side of the viewing box, it might be a switch such a drum switch.

    The overall appearance would place it in the 1930's to early 1940's. If the device is in Utah, it may have something to do with the nuclear bomb development such as uranium ore analysis.

    Tom

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    It truly is a wonder that any of us of a certain age actually survived some of the crazy shite we were exposed to at an early age... Jim

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    On the top it looks like there is a lamp housing and, possibly, a small reel. I was thinking it could be a sort of projector for viewing microfilms. First I thought about an old optical comparator, but I don't think you can put much between the lamp housing and the body of the instrument.

    Paolo

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    Unfortunately the picture got reduced in size when I uploaded it making some of the details harder to make out. She is not holding a wand. She is holding a real of film and it seems to load into the top of the machine. I was thinking it was for previewing film or something like that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by L Vanice View Post
    Like Joe, I am old enough to have seen my foot bones in one of those things. There were three viewing ports, one for me, one for Mom and one for the salesman. I think maybe the salesman had a pointer that he could use to show how the shoe fit at different places.

    In 1950, I got a Gilbert atomic energy lab for Christmas. It had radioactive samples and a Geiger counter.
    Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory - Wikipedia

    Larry
    Says that toy was $530 in 2020 dollars, I bet not many kids got that.

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    Like some of you guys, I too am old enough to remember a fluoroscope in a local shoe repair shop in Alhambra, California, very near where I grew up. I don't remember much of it, except it was tall enough for me to stand while I inserted my feet into a slot near the floor. Meanwhile, the viewing screen was high enough from the floor for me to just stand there and look at my toes wiggling in real time. It was fun as heck. I used to do it every time we'd go in the shop (which thankfully wasn't often).
    The machine in the original post doesn't look at all familiar. Seems to me it could be identified by taking it apart and examining the innards.

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    Quote Originally Posted by reggie_obe View Post
    That's my guess. Wish I could back it up. I google around a bit for "antique microfilm reader" and can't find any that look like this.


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