Historical zebrafish!

Way back in the dim, distant past, before YouTube and publicly accessible digital media, two of my friends, Don Kane, now at Western Michigan University, and Rolf Karlstrom, now at Amherst, made a video of zebrafish development. This was in 1992. It was on VHS tape. (If you don’t know what that is, ask your grandparents).

Then in 1996, a whole issue of Development was dedicated to zebrafish development and genetics, and they translated that tape into modern technology: a flip book. The top right corner of the issue featured one frame of the video, so you could flip through it and see a nice little timelapse. Like this:

Isn’t that quaint?

Sadly, I have not been able to find a copy of the flip book transported to the convenient medium of youtube (maybe I can find my copy of the file and upload it, but that thing was over 20 freaking years ago, so it may take me a while to excavate it), but at least there’s a version available via facebook, as facebook reminded me today.

I routinely make better videos than that one now, but it’s because I’ve got hi-res digital video cameras and fancy software — just remember that historical flip book was made off of VHS tape and edited by hand frame by frame. It’s really a vast improvement over the prior version, which was chiseled on slabs of sandstone and mounted in a row, so you had to run past them very fast to get the animation effect.

Also, the subject didn’t get much reward or glory, and probably ended up going down a drain in Eugene, Oregon.


  1. Marshall says

    Slightly off-topic, does anybody know if there are any trains that zoom past a row of images arranged in flipbook-like fashion, so it looks like you’re watching a video as you zoom past? I’m not sure that would even work without a strobe light.

  2. says

    Marshall — yes, the MBTA in Boston tried those when I lived there a few years back. No strobe light involved. The motion was jerky but it kind of worked. I expect it was very expensive advertising though, don’t know if they still do it. They have to go into the subway tunnel to set it up.

    Question: Is it wise to send exotic fish species down the drain? Just askin’.

  3. says

    Hey now! I graduated from Western Michigan University in 1995 and I am definitely not anyone’s grandma!

    Also, flip books are cool.

  4. blf says

    Also, flip books are cool.

    So are bowties. And fezzes.

    Random flipbook fact (from the University of Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge): “The inside pages [of Finnish passports] contain drawings of an elk that when flipped rapidly show the elk in motion.”

  5. jrkrideau says

    @ 1 Marshall
    I have never heard of this but you might want to check out the TGV in France. The French are prone to financing some ‘unusual’ art efforts and the TGV has the speed to make it work.

    In fact, if they have not done this you might want to put a proposal together.