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A phenakistoscope disc by Eadweard Muybridge (1893)
The phenakistoscope – a couple waltzing

The phenakistoscope (also spelled phenakistiscope) was an early animation device, the predecessor of the zoetrope. It was invented in 1832 simultaneously by the Belgian Joseph Plateau and the Austrian Simon von Stampfer.

One variant of the phenakistoscope is a spinning disc attached vertically on a handle. Around the center of the disc a series of pictures was drawn corresponding to frames of the animation; around its circumference was a series of radial slits. The user would spin the disc and look through the moving slits at the disc's reflection in a mirror. The scanning of the slits across the reflected images kept them from simply blurring together, so that the user would see a rapid succession of images with the appearance of a motion picture (see also persistence of vision). Another variant had two discs, one with slits and one with pictures; this was slightly more unwieldy but needed no mirror. Unlike the zoetrope and its successors, the phenakistoscope could only practically be used by one person at a time.The phenakistoscope was only famous for about two years due to the changing of technology.

The first part of the term 'phenakistoscope' comes from the root Greek word φενακίζειν - phenakizein, meaning "to deceive" or "to cheat", as it deceives the eye by making the pictures look like an animation. As technology along with popularity increased in the early twentieth century, coin operation was utilized on machines, coining the term "Nickelodeon," which would be later be used somewhat freely to describe events charging five cents or a "nickel."

The Special Honorary Joseph Plateau Award, a replica of Plateau's original phenakistiscope, is presented every year to a special guest of the Flanders International Film Festival whose achievements have earned a special and distinct place in the history of international film making.

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