|This article relies on references to primary sources. (September 2010)|
A tower viewer is a telescope or binoculars permanently mounted on a stalk. The device magnifies objects seen through its lenses, allowing users to see farther and more clearly than they could with the naked eye or with less powerful viewing devices. Tower viewers are typically metallic and most swivel horizontally and vertically (within given axes of rotation) to permit a range of view. The viewing machines are commonly placed in tourist destinations and scenic lookouts for the purpose of viewing attractions and events of interest; they are also used in residential, business, recreational and government locations for the purposes of surveillance and safety monitoring.
Tower viewers are known by a variety of names, which include:
- coin(-operated) binoculars, coin(-operated) telescope, coin(-operated) scope, coin(-operated) viewer
- donation viewer
- free use viewer
- observation binoculars, observation telescope, observation viewer
- optical ranger, optical sight
- outdoor viewer
- non-coin(-operated) binoculars, non-coin(-operated) telescope, non-coin(-operated) scope, non-coin(-operated) viewer
- Pinnacle Scope
- revenue binoculars, revenue telescope
- scenic magnifier, scenic telescope, scenic viewer
- spyglass viewer, spyglasses
- stationary binoculars, stationary telescope
- tower binoculars, tower scope, tower telescope
- view master, viewfinder, viewer, viewing scope, viewing machine, viewing stand, viewing telescope
Tower viewers vary in terms of the features offered. Common features of interest include:
- Directories: Some devices provide directories that guide users to easily target specific attractions within a tower viewer's field of vision.
- Focus, magnification, and power: Some devices focus automatically, while others permit users to manually adjust a viewer's focus and magnification to suit their individual needs. The range within such adjustments can be made are limited by a device's magnification power.
- Height adjustment: Some machines allow users to adjust the height of the viewing device itself and/or its base.
- Range of motion: The latitude of motion varies among manufacturers and viewer models.
Some machines (such as Hi-Spy Viewing Machines, Inc.) are equipped with speakers that enable listeners to hear audio guides to the attractions within view. Additionally, listeners may select the language they wish to hear.
Paid versus free use
Tower viewers placed in public locations or used for fundraising purposes may be coin-operated or bill-acceptors; some others are free of charge. When payment is required to operate the machine, the viewing period is specifically timed. In the case of coin-operated Tower Optical viewers, for example, paid viewing times are "roughly 1.5 to 2.5 minutes".
Tower viewers are popularly used worldwide. For example, SeeCoast Manufacturing Company states: "SeeCoast's viewers can be found in every U.S. state and in over 80 overseas locations throughout the world."
Two well-known manufacturers of tower viewers in the United States are Tower Optical Co., Inc. (founded in 1933) and SeeCoast Manufacturing Company, Inc. (founded in 1960). Both firms offer wheelchair-accessible viewer bases that provide easy access to the sighting mechanisms, in compliance with the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Examples of tower viewer manufacturers located abroad include Hi-Spy Viewing Machines, Inc. (established in 1991) in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada
In popular culture
Tower viewers are often portrayed in popular culture, sometimes as backdrops, but at times as plot devices.
- In the 1993 movie, Sleepless in Seattle, tower viewers are visible in the scenes shot on the Empire State Building's Observation Deck.
- In the 2005 movie, Fever Pitch
- In the 2007 movie, Camille
- In the 2008 movie, The Love Guru
- In the 2008 movie, Yes Man
- In the 2013 movie, Oblivion
- In Lord and Taylor's 2007 catalog cover
- In The Sopranos episode, "Funhouse" (2000), Tony Soprano dreams that he is viewing the Atlantic Ocean through a coin-operated tower viewer until the viewer shuts off at its allotted time, without warning. The music playing during this sequence is "Free Fallin'" by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. This incident foretells the series finale's final frame: one moment, Tony Soprano is looking up to see who is entering the diner where he, Carmela, and AJ are sitting at a table waiting for Meadow to arrive, while Journey's song, "Don't Stop Believin'" plays in the background; the next moment - precisely at the conclusion of the lyrics, "Don't stop" - all audio abruptly stops and the screen smash cuts to white.
- In CTV Television Network's 2009 TV adveristement for the 2010 Winter Olympics: Vancouver
- In the Royal Canadian Mint’s TV advertisement for the new 2009 Olympic quarters
- In the 2010 Winter Olympics: Vancouver TV advertisement (running pre-Olympics)