In modern optometric offices you’re likely to see digital cameras, automated refractors, and OCT imaging equipment. But the instrument most associated with an eye exam is the phoropter. Invented in the early 1900s and originally called a Phoro-optometer, the phoropter hasn’t changed all that much over the years!
As technology advances devices usually get smaller, but with almost every new model that came out, the phoropter kept getting bigger! Over time, the phoropter continued to get larger and improve until it became what it is today in the 1960s.
Prior to the phoropter, eyeglass prescriptions were determined largely with trial lens sets; individual lenses put in front of a person’s eyes until a pair that seemed the best was determined. The phoropter was a big improvement because it is able to assess binocular vision and balance the two eyes as well as determine correction for patients having astigmatism.
You may still see Dr. Tabak pull out a lens or two from his old trial lens set to illustrate how a slight prescription change to a patient’s glasses would appear.