Today we tend to take for granted the technological advances that many of us use to see each day – light, thin, stylish prescription eyeglasses that correct our vision so we can live life to the fullest. But imagine what your life would have been like a hundred years ago if you couldn’t see clearly. Your options were to either simply live with the debilitating condition or wear rudimentary spectacles that allowed you to see clearly straight ahead, but limited your peripheral vision.
“Each day, millions of people wake up and grab their prescription eyeglasses to start their day off with near-perfect vision,” says Jeff Hopkins, senior manager at Carl Zeiss Vision, a pioneer in eyeglass lens technology for 100 years. “When you think back to what it was like to have vision problems just a century ago, it’s amazing how far we’ve come. Today, prescription eyeglasses are technologically advanced, widely available and affordable.”
A look at the last 100 years of optics history shows how much prescription eyeglasses have changed, and what trends are developing for the future.
Before 1900: Jeepers, creepers – these glasses aren’t helping my peepers
Prescription eyeglass wearers today have clear vision across the entire surface of the lens, but that was not always the case. Before 1912, prescription eyeglasses had a much more restricted field of clear vision. For many this meant vision was only clear when looking directly ahead. As you moved your eye to one side or the other, the view was increasingly blurry. Seeing something in the periphery required more than a glance – you had to turn to look at it.
1912: Goodbye tunnel vision, hello precision eyeglass lenses
On April 1, 1912, Carl Zeiss produced the first precision eyeglass lens called Punktal, which allowed many wearers to see across the entire surface of the eyeglass lens right up to the edge, making previous eyeglass lenses obsolete. No more “tunnel vision” effects or strained necks from having to move your head back and forth all the time.
1920s to today: Talking ‘bout my generation’s … style of eyeglasses frames
Before Punktal, eyeglasses were usually tiny, because a larger lens size only meant more peripheral blur. Punktal’s wider fields of view allowed the creation of larger, more diverse eyeglass frame styles. Long gone are the days of the pince-nez glasses that were held on one’s face by pinching the nose, typically found before the 1920s. Since then, many styles have emerged to help define generational fashion. Browline frames, such as the ones worn by Malcolm X, were popular in the 1950s. In the 1960s, stylish women complemented their beehive hairdos with cat-eye frames. Horn-rimmed frames were popular in the ’40s through the ’60s, with popularity booming again in 2012.
21st century: Lenses created and customized just for me
Advancements continue in prescription eyeglass lens technology, with the focus on optimizing the vision experience for each individual person. This stems from the idea that even if two people have the same prescription, they might have different visual needs based on the shape of their face, the style of their eyeglass frames and even their daily activities. Customized lenses like ZEISS Progressive Individual 2 are designed precisely for each unique vision situation, and are based on personal parameters, integrating their prescription, their frames and the way they fit, and their personal needs for near, intermediate and distance vision into a unique personalized design.
2012: Seeing is believing with online vision screening
Today there are more options than ever for checking your eyesight, including screening your vision from the convenience of your home computer. For example, Zeiss offers a free online vision screening tool that allows visitors to test their visual acuity, contrast vision and color vision, and can be used as a guide to help you quickly and easily determine if it’s time to get a professional eye exam at your local eye care provider. The screening and results are completed within five minutes or less.
“The future is bright for vision technology. Over the next 100 years, I have confidence we’ll be seeing better than ever,” concludes Hopkins.