It’s kind of interesting to realize how recently eyeglasses have become a consumer product. It wasn’t all that long ago that only the wealthy could afford corrective lenses. It was even more recent that getting prescriptions for them. This is one of the many examples of the wonders of technological advancement. Now people pretty much anywhere in the world can buy eyeglasses. If they live in the West Coast of the US in a place like CulverCity, or in southern Germany in Bavaria, or even into the non-western world, eyeglasses have become cheap and common place.

The reason for this is twofold. The first is the advancement of technology to make the glasses themselves. The second was the spread and improvement of education especially in the medical field. It wasn’t that long ago that medicine was more art than science (this can be blamed for the continuing success of fake medical treatments) and education in it was either haphazard or rare. As such it was hard for people to get a doctor who could diagnose the nature of their visual problems and figure out the correct lenses for them. Good doctors were rare, and when something is rare it is expensive. Over time they’ve gotten more affordable and in some cases covered by insurance so that people can get their examination for just a co-pay.

The second aspect to consider is the automation and computerization of the manufacture of eyeglasses. When something is done by hand it requires more time, making the production of it slower and thus rarer. In short the same economic force applies; the rarity of produced lenses drove the price up. It also meant that the likelihood of mistakes was that much higher and that people buying eyeglasses would have to be willing to potentially pay for a second pair just to get the prescription right. This put up a price wall making it harder for people with less income to get the corrective lenses they needed.

The other factor is not related to eyeglasses themselves but there has been a wider spread of wealth than there had been a few hundred years ago. There’s also a greater need for corrective lenses. Sharp eye sight is only so useful for people working as farmers, having approximate eye sight is enough for most tasks. On the other hand for people working professional and white collar jobs (which are more common in places like CulverCity than agriculture) need to be able to read things precisely. All of this has lead to the modern situation where not only do most people who need glasses have them, but some people have multiple pairs.

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