English Reading Lab Machines

Who says English majors, even in the past, haven’t engaged with technology?

Here is a curiosity I stumbled across the other day.

I’m not entirely sure what the function of these so-labeled “reading lab” machines might have been, because I have never seen anything like them before. My best guess is that they were designed to improve speed-reading skills — that the bar of light from above swept down the page at a words-per-minute pace set by the user.

Image of Girl in English Reading Lab circa 1962. RS 13/10/D,F,G, University Photos, box 1073.

Girl in English Reading Lab circa 1962. RS 13/10/D,F,G, University Photos, box 1073.

Furthermore, they seem to have been used in a classroom setting, rather than private study carrels, which suggests to me that they may have served as remedial aids for students — perhaps for freshmen who had been struggling to keep up with course reading loads and wished to improve their study skills.

Image of Reading Lab "Help" Class, circa 1962. RS 13/10/D,F,G, University Photos, box 1073.

Reading Lab “Help” Class, circa 1962. RS 13/10/D,F,G, University Photos, box 1073.

These are just guesses, however.

If anyone reading this post attended ISU in the 1960s, is there a chance that you used something like this? Could you shed some light on these machines’ purpose?

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