Ed Artifact

The overhead projector aims to help students shine brightly


A vintage overhead projector sitting on a roller cart lighting a wall ready to show overhead projection transparencies.

While the world went digital, the overhead projector somehow remained relevant in classrooms and business settings.

Widely used since the 1930s, the overhead projector was especially popular in classrooms because of its ability to enlarge images and create interactive presentations. This reliability led to its longevity. Its capabilities, meanwhile, inspired companies to adapt the overhead as a “must have” for movie nerds in their home theaters.

According to EdTech, most classroom overhead projectors consist of a large, boxlike base with an arm, mirror and bright light. The box houses a cooling fan and the light, while the arm extends above it. At the end of the arm is a mirror that catches and redirects the light toward the screen. This type of projector can be used to enlarge images on the screen or wall for students to view.

EasyTechJunkie delves into the history of the projector. It was created in France in 1850, but it took several decades to arrive in the U.S. During World War II, overhead projectors were used as a tool to train troops. In the 1950s and 1960s, they made their way to American classrooms.

Gen Xers and millennials will remember the transparent sheets with text imprinted. Our teachers would hand us a dry-erase marker to write math problems or edit a story. While some of us may have had stage fright giving this type of presentation, others will recall the excitement of showing off our math or grammar skills for all to see.

While our definition of portable has changed over time, the overhead projector used to be praised for how easily it could be moved. It was packed away in a box/suitcase-like shape.

Use of the overhead peaked in the 1990s and then gradually fell out of favor for smart boards and other digitally based products. However, teachers still sometimes prefer it for its reliability and simplicity.