Guido E. Santacana, Puerto Rico


Back in the hot summer of 1966 I was a 13-year-old budding amateur microscopist looking for new subjects to observe through my newly acquired and excellent 300x Tasco microscope.

This small instrument, bought from many months of savings, originally came in an elegant wooden box with 3 slides and a very small instruction book on how to use it. It was also of very high quality considering the price range. The lenses were good glass ones and the field of view was large and comfortable. The whole body was made of metal and the focusing mechanism was very smooth and precise. Knowing at that time very little about what to observe under the microscope, I went back to the photo shop that retailed these instruments to see what was available in terms of a more complete manual or microscope kit.

I found a couple of Tasco Educational Sets that were in fact small micro laboratories for persons who already had a microscope. The micro laboratories were definitely out of range of my micro budget so I had to look for something more well… micro. Suddenly on top of the store counter I saw some brochure type packages hanging from a rotary display with a drawing of a microscope on them. The first words that I read on the bottom of one of the packages were "Just Add Water". I also read the price that was exactly in my micro range.

The package consisted of the Tasco Micro Zoo. As you opened the brochure like card there were three small transparent plastic packages glued at the top. The first one contained "Hydroponically Dried Protozoa", the second one was methyl cellulose for slowing down the protozoa and the last one was " Protozoa Food". The brochure like package opened into 3 sections and was full of information on both sides.

I took the package home and immediately prepared the protozoa culture by carefully following the instructions in the package. Many protozoa came to life in just a few hours and this was my first great experience with my newly acquired first microscope. It was a real thrill to see Colpoda, Stylonychia, Vorticella and other ciliates. The methyl cellulose served to slow them down and instructions for its use were very clear. After a couple of days the instructions required that you use the protozoa food that consisted of a piece of paper into which "special yeast" had been embedded. The paper served its purpose well and the culture lasted for a long time. Later on I acquired a good book on microscopy plus a more complete microscope set and was able to continue developing my avocation. The brochure and culture disappeared in time.

Almost 36 years have elapsed since that unforgettable experience and as many of you know I have become a collector of microscope sets designed for youngsters in the 50s and 60s. To my great surprise and just recently, I was able to acquire a complete and miraculously unused Tasco Micro Zoo just like the one described above. The photos below (figures 1,2) show the different aspects of this simple but effective educational item for yesterday’s young microscopists. It also shows the catchy title of "First Animal Life on Earth" with the drawing of primeval earth. You can even read the instructions and some information about protozoa. This Micro Zoo will remain unused in my collection but if I get another one, it will become my second Micro Zoo culture and the topic of another article on this peculiar, interesting, and for many, nostalgic microscope educational tool for the young microscopist with a micro budget!!

Comments to the author Guido Santacana are welcomed.

The Tasco Micro Zoo

microzoo1.jpg (32433 bytes)

microzoo2.jpg (75793 bytes)

Editor's note: The author's other Micscape articles on toy microscopes are as follows.

A legacy of microscopy for kids. A fascinating look at older toy microscope sets 
Amerscope - an older toy microscope
A complete student microscope set from 1965

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Published in the April 2001 edition of Micscape Magazine.

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