Sega is a Japanese company but it was started by an American named David Rosen in 1951. As the Japanese got out from under the crippling effects of World War II, they began to have some spare coins for amusement. Rosen formed Sega and imported mechanical arcade games from the USA. Sega originally imported cheaper games that had run their course in American amusement parlors but eventually it started importing current games. This, however, proved highly expensive, as the Japanese government levied large fees on imports that weren't tied directly towards the rebuilding efforts. Sega, capitalizing on the acquisition of a jukebox manufacturing company, was able to switch to producing its own games. Its first was called Periscope, released in 1966.

Periscope, designed by founder David Rosen, was a behemoth. It used chains to drive cardboard ships. The object was to spot the ships with your periscope, press a button, and hit them with your torpedoes. The torpedoes were actually beams of light. The game proved successful because of a realistic periscope interface and the best sound effects for a machine of that time. The game took Japanese game parlors and train stations by storm. Its fame quickly spread to arcade owners in Europe and the USA. Pretty soon Sega, previous an importer of arcade games, was in the game exporting business.

The one problem with Periscope was that it was an expensive piece of machinery for the American market. As well, it took up more floor space, crowding out other games. Sega fitted the export machines with quarter slots. Previous to Periscope, American arcade games charged ten cents. Periscope has the distinction of being the first arcade game to set the traditional quarter a play price. (FYI, Dragon's Lair was the first game to break the 50 cents barrier.)

Apparently a working version of Periscope is still in operation at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.

In 1976 Midway released an electronic, raster version of Periscope called Sea Wolf.

The most familiar kind of periscope is that used in submarines to allow their crews to look around in the open air without actually coming to the surface, typically in order to spot targets for torpedoing. Its most basic form is a tube with a mirror at each end, something like this:

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Light comes in at the top of the tube, then is reflected downward by one angled mirror, caught by another at the bottom of the tube, and sent out the viewing end. In cheap toy periscopes children use to play at looking around corners without being seen, that's really all there is. For a practical instrument of war, however, you need various other optical elements like lenses or curved mirrors to get useful viewing out of this sort of contrivance, since you'd otherwise lose all your field of view looking down such a narrow tube.

A big drawback of having a look around with a periscope is that you may well be spotted by your prey (or, worse yet, by a Catalina or its modern-day equivalent). This is even more of a problem when the enemy has radar, as they have for the last fifty years or so. As a result, submarine captains like to avoid coming up to periscope depth if at all possible. Modern submaries mitigate this by using various stealth measures on the periscopes themselves, as well as a wide variety of sensors like active and passive sonar arrays to see better underwater and avoid the need to come up to the surface. Modern periscopes also tend to have fancy electronics in addition to or instead of the fancy optics, granting the viewer access to things like night vision, heads-up displays, and multiple views.

Periscopes also appear anywhere else you have the need to look around from inside something and don't want to put a window in for whatever reason: tanks and other armored vehicles, bunkers, parade floats, and so on.

Per"i*scope (?), n. [Pref. peri- + -scope.]

A general or comprehensive view.



© Webster 1913.

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