When Were The Different Generations Of Night Vision Devices Invented?

These days, some of the most important tasks and jobs are done at night when the sun has already set. Fortunately, scientists and researchers have come up with a type of technology that can help people see better at night. 

With the invention of night vision technology, the way that people conduct missions and do tasks at night is made easier, more comfortable, and more convenient too. 

If you have been wanting to know about how the night vision technology started and improved through the years, then this is the right article for you to read. 

The time period when the different types of night vision technology were invented would be featured and discussed here. 

History of the Different Generations of Night Vision Technology

The use of night vision technology has been introduced to the world mostly by a lot of U.S. manufacturers. Night vision devices are all designed to help see people in seeing at night. 

They were first introduced and used in the period of World War II—they have been widely used during the Vietnam War. Since then, this specific technology has improved greatly, and the improvisations made have led to having several generations with different increased performances too. 

i] Generation 0

Generation 0 of the night vision technology was first introduced at the end of World War II, or even prior to that period. In the year 1929, one Hungarian Physicist has invented the electronic television camera that is infrared-sensitive. 

This specific device is made for operations in the U.K as an anti-aircraft defense. In the year 1935, the first night vision devices that are used by the military. These devices are introduced through the use of the German Army. 

From the later parts of 1944 up until 1945, there are recorded successful tests done by the German when they tried mounting some night vision devices on some of their weapons. To add more information about that, there are also parallel inventions, developments, and high quality rifle scope made in the U.S.A. 

In the U.S., the devices were called snooper scope and sniper scope. These devices used infrared sources of light in order to intensify the brightness that can be seen by the ones who used it. 

Some of the most common examples used are the following: PAU 2, Tanker Goggles (PNV 57A), PAS 5 or SU-49, T 120 Sniper Scope (First Model used during World War II), M2 Sniper Scope (Second Model used during World War II), M3 Sniper Scope (Fourth Model used during Korean War) and PAS 4 or AN (used during the earlier parts of Vietnam War).

ii] Generation 1

The first generation of passive night vision devices was developed and introduced in the 1960s—this is the period when the Vietnam War is still ongoing. The passive night vision devices during this era were patented by the U.S. Army, and they are mostly an adaptation of the existing active Generation 0 night vision technology. 

This type of night vision technology mostly relied on the available ambient light instead of detecting some infrared light. The Generation 1 type of night vision technology used an S-20 photocathode—this is an image intensifier that produced light intensification or amplification that is approximately 1000. 

These devices were pretty bulky in appearance, and they mostly relied on the light produced by the moon in order to work and function well. Some of the most common night vision devices back then are the following: PVS 1 Star Light Scope, PVS 2 Star Light Scope, PNV 57E Tanker Goggles, and PAS-6 Varo Meta Scope. 

iii] Generation 2

The second generation of night vision technology was developed and introduced in the period of 1970s. Actually, the type of night vision devices used in this generation worked just how the first generation did. 

The only difference is the type of photocathode used. With this generation, they used a microchannel plate and paired it with an S-25 photocathode. When the performance of this generation’s devices is compared to the first ones, this one produced much better qualities of the image that were being viewed through it. 

This specific development of the night vision technology led to having an increased illumination in dark ambient conditions. The light amplification through the use of these night vision devices was approximately 20,000—this is much higher when compared to the 1000-amplification of the first ones. 

With this improved performance, the resolutions of images are also enhanced as well as the performance of night vision devices. Some of the examples of devices during this time are PVS 3, PVS 4, PVS 5, SUPER-GEN, and PNV 10T. 

iv] Generation 3

In the period of the 1990s is when the third generation of night vision technology developments was introduced. The use of the microchannel plate has remained, but the use of a different photocathode was introduced. 

They have introduced the use of gallium-arsenide as the new photocathode—this type further improved the resolution of images that were viewed through the devices. 

The amplification of light during these times was around 30,000 up to 50,000. Some of the examples of night vision devices used in this period are the following: PVS 7, NVS 7, PVS 10, PVS 14, PSQ 20, CNVS 4949, and PN 21K. 


Throughout the years, a lot of developments were introduced for the improvement of night vision technology. Up until today, a lot of inventions, researches, and studies are still done and conducted in order to have a better experience while doing tasks at night. 

The fast advancements of technology have been continuously recognized these days. Truly, there are still improvements to be done and other types of night vision technology are yet to be discovered in the coming years. 

The main goal of these developments is to the help the mankind and make lives easier and more comfortable, so they are really an important part of the world that we are living in today—they are a part that we cannot live without and we need for our tasks at night.

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