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    The Sober Designs of Nixon-Era 'Psychedelic Devices'

    Written by

    Brian Anderson

    Features Editor

    Patent sketch for the Psychedelic Clock

    It's 1969, and the flower vibes are peaking.

    Richard Nixon is president. Martin Luther King has been assassinated. The conflict in Vietnam rages. Debate over US involvement in Vietnam rages. Elvis Presley is a bloated junkie. Abbey Road is released. The Apollo space program lands on the Moon. Brian Jones drowns. ARPANET goes live. Thousands of young people are huggng it out in the rain and mud at Woodstock, which is a beautiful thing but nonetheless the whole thing deals with flaky bands, a spotty sound system, and spottier LSD. Everyone is stoned. 

    Literally and figuratively, everyone. Psychedelic drugs are sweeping the country, and everyone, from users to dealers to producers to gurus to concerned parents and hand-wringing public officials, is implicated. 

    Inventors, too. The prospect of making bank--legally--from mass hallucinations, so to speak, is suddenly very real. For George Miller, Paul Belokin, and Paul H. Turnrose, among other tinkerers either genuinely hip to it, or just very desperate, capitalizing on the psychedelic experience is a no brainer. It's classic mass-market commodification: Co-opt some product of the counterculture, distill the thing, and then package it to be bought off-the-shelf en masse.

    Indeed, the potential consumer base spares no one. Or so it was thought: Gadgets that harmlessly replicated facets of the psychedelic experience could appeal not only to who use psychedelics and have the funds to blow on accessorizing, and thus enhancing trips. It could appeal to all those who wouldn't eat acid if their lives depended on it, but who are still curious about what it's like and. Looking for a nice way to accent that weekly (drunken) pot-luck dinner with the rest of the 40-plus crowd on the block, they'd put money down for some of that Acid Lite, which came in a few flavors:     

    THE TIME KEEPER

    Miller designed this charming little time piece for potential consumers tickled by "abstract motifs or designs of psychedelic design." The gadget's dials, which adjusted the hour, minute, and second, had pivotally-mounted, light-reflecting surface set at each of the dozen markers of a standard clock. So trippy. 

    He filed for patent in 1969. A year later, his Psychedelic Clock was officialy on file as US Patent 3514938 (pdf).  

    THE REFLECTOR 

    Belokin's invention, a disc that you'd align with a "transparent hemispherical dome," made multicolor ambience easy. As he decribes (pdf), light emits from either:

    an internal or external source againsttheinsidesurfaceofthedome toform aperiph eral re?ected pattern which is visible primarily in the areas or plane between the diaphragm and the apex of thedome asapsychestheticcoloredlightpatternand unusual illumination effect. The disc and dome are ro tated in relation to one another or both may rotate in relationtothelightsource.

    His Psychedelic Reflection Device was filed under US Patent 3749903 in 1973. 

    THE FILTER 

    The idea behind Turnrose's brainchild was to piggy-back on booming television sales. Now any of old schmuck could slap this multicolor screen to the front of T.V. set and take in the evening news through slightly spaced projections. You can find the Psychedelic Device Attachable to Front of Television Tube under US Patent 3657474 (pdf). 

    Clocks, spinning lights, filters--you get the idea. There's likely many more would-be mass marketed "psychedelic" gadetry where those came from. And while it's easy to laugh at the campy designs, not least their rigid names (I mean really, Psychedelic Device), they're a sobering reminder of the endless dream of cashing in on dropping out. 

    @thebanderson

    Topics: mass hallucinations, psychedelics, gadgets

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