When Was Night Vision Invented: The Basic Facts

When Was Night Vision Invented: The Basic Facts

When Was Night Vision Invented: The Basic Facts

Night vision goggles and scopes make the darkest subjects come to life; in fact, it is hard imagining the world without this amazing technology. These devices started as military tools but later expanded its applications to police, hunting, and even rescue needs. Let’s take a closer look at this device and learn when was night vision invented.

What Is a Night Vision Technology?

A night vision technology allows capturing of images and videos even in near total darkness. Militaries and law enforcement agencies commonly use them for missions and tasks. These devices are also available for private use.

How Does Night Vision Work?

Night vision works in two ways, namely image intensification and thermal imaging. With image intensification, the existing ambient light is used and amplified using several chemical and electrical processes. That will produce a classic bright green image normally seen on television.

On the other hand, thermal imaging captures the infrared energy emitted by several objects and people. This can work and intensify even without a touch of light due to its micro-barometer sensor. It helps find and compute the temperature of the object, which in turn develops into patterns for easier image detection.

Why Are Everything Green Under Night Vision Devices?

Once the electrons hit the phosphor coated screen of the device, they are converted into photons that produce the green color. You can also produce black and white colors; however, the characteristic green color produced by night vision devices is a lot better due to the following reasons:

Green, in general, is more accurately distinguished and perceived. This gives the user more accurate images and user-friendly videos.
The eyes are more sensitive to a particular light wavelength that is near the green color. This makes the display a bit dimmer, which in turn helps conserve the battery power of your device.

When Was Night Vision Invented?

A Hungarian physicist named Kalman Tihanyi invented the first infrared-sensitive electronic television camera in 1929. This was designed and used for an anti-aircraft defense system in the UK.

 Gen O

During the mid-1930, the first practical military devices with night vision features were introduced in Germany. These are known as “Gen 0” and were used as primitive infrared units for infantry and tanks during the World War II.

The devices were further enhanced and amplified for better versions. However, they remained to be large and bulky. They also required flatbed trucks for mounting, which made them easy targets for their enemies.

A group of the army working with the Radio Corporation of America made technological innovations of the night vision devices during the 1940s and 50s. It was led by Dr. Vladimir Zworykin who first introduced commercial units of night vision devices.

Gen I

By mid-1960s, several scientists created passive night vision devices that are known as Gen I. This type of instruments no longer requires an infrared illuminator to function correctly. They come in small and starlight scope that was often used by people in low-light jungle areas during the Vietnam War.

The passive night vision scopes with ambient lights for target illumination were first used and seen during the Vietnam War. These scopes are mounted on standard rifles, and they come with an extended battery life of up to 100 hours. The best part is the drop in their total weight from about 28 pounds to eight pounds.

From the 1970s to 1990s, a breakthrough in thermal imaging helped improve the night vision system. These modifications brought outstanding changes that lead to the optimum capacity of the night vision in the military world.

Gen II

The “Gen II” devices were then introduced using an improved image intensifier tube. This utilizes a micro-channel plate with photocathode to give users brighter images even around the lens’ edges.

A combination of increased illumination, light amplification, and image resolution was also intensely improved. Later on, the “Gen II” had better optics together with super-gen tubes and signal-to-noise ratio features.


The introduction of “Gen III” devices paved the way for higher levels of image resolution. These devices are now designed with an improved photocathode that uses gallium arsenide for clearer resolution. It is coated with a barrier film to prevent unwanted particles from entering the plate.

What Is the Future of Night Vision?

The visible light only makes up a small portion of the light spectrum. Thermo-scopes are already being used for rescue missions in the woods or under ruins. In fact, the higher the sensitivity of the device, the better the resolution is produced, and the larger the range used.

Some prototype scopes use solid-state technology to radiate creatures. They are naturally emitted; thus, light sources from the outside environment are no longer necessary. These latest innovations are good signs that night scopes will soon work even in total darkness.

Another next big thing about night vision is the use of short wave infrared cameras. These can extend the night vision to a certain level that is invisible to other cameras. They produce clear and life-like forms and images, even in complete darkness.

Are There Alternatives to Night Visions?

If you are into more affordable alternatives, the most efficient way is to use a digital camera sensor. This can be in the form of a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) or charge coupled device (CCD). These alternatives will allow you to see things in dark places without spending too much.

Final Thoughts

Knowing what is night vision technology and when was night vision invented gives a better understanding of how night vision devices truly work. The improvements that occur with this device have been immense.

Through the years, the technology involved with night vision comes in more budget-friendly and consumer grade devices. They are meant to produce clearer images and improved light magnifications. These intensified upgrades have been successfully used in military forces, police units, and even by a dedicated hobbyist.

Despite the advancements in the intensified flavor and thermal imaging, the night vision devices still work using the basic principles present with the earlier models.

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