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A Short History of Night Vision Devices

Night vision devices (often called night scoped by the general public) are used to intensify our sight when the lighting conditions are very poor. You can choose from many types of such devices. You’ll find a complete review on many sites that can help you find out more about the present-day technology.

An infrared imaging system, also called an “active” night vision device, will focus the infrared light on a certain scene. Since infrared is not in the light spectrum that humans can notice, the beam that is produced is not detectable. The technology of image-converting is what transforms said illuminated scene by the infrared into an image we can see.

A thermal imaging system doesn’t work very differently as this one can convert the pattern of heat that is emitted by people, animals or objects, into an image we can distinguish.

The night vision devices that were initially created for wars, but are now available in stores for the general public, are known under the “passive” night vision system name. Such a system has the role of amplifying an image that was picked up in a minimal light (for example, starlight), into an image we can see.

The view that we get using such a device is anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 times brighter than the image our eyes could see without any such device.

Said devices for night vision were initially created for and only used by the army since being able to see in the dark gives you a big advantage over the enemy and can be used as a tactic to have the upper hand. Wars in which night vision devices were used are the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War.

These devices have also started to be used by the police forces. By the late 1990s, these items were being available for the public for the first time as well. They started by being used in high-end cars and are now available for most everybody to be used when they please.

How did it all start?

The research for devices that can work during the nighttime started in the United States, in the 1940s. The country managed to create a technology program by the end of the decade and in the 1950s it created an infrared viewing system. This falls into the “active” technology category because it made use of a directed beam of infrared light.

Although this beam was not noticeable by the naked eye, a person having the equivalent technology could manage to pick up the beam easily. The types of viewers that were used during the mid-1950s and 1960s are now known as “Generation 0” technology.

ITT Corporation started being the producer of night vision devices for the US military in 1958. The Department of Defense would later found its own laboratory in 1965 with the aim of improving the technology that was already existing. In the same decade, scientists created the first passive night vision system that could be considered workable.

Such a device bore the name “Starlight” as they had the ability to pick up and amplify the images that could only be seen by starlight. It came to be known as a “Generation I” device and, obviously, gave the best results under the moonlight.

New developments and commercialism

After being used in the Vietnam War, the technology started to develop more, creating devices that were smaller and less bulky and were called “Generation 2” devices. During the 1970s and the 1980s, the U.S. military worked continuously on developing and refining this technology and passive “Generation 2” devices appeared.

By the end of the 1980s “Generation 3” technology was being developed. These products had better resolutions even when the light was really low. The US Army used them in the Persian Gulf War and the troops had the advantage of seeing in the dark, but also through smoke or dust.

At the end of the 1990s, the Department of Defense cut much of the funding for the development of night vision and the shift of the producers moved to the consumer market.

In a short period of time, night vision devices went from just an idea to one important part of any combat to being used by everyday citizens.

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