Ever since humans became hunters, it is fair to assume that they had the desire to see things at a distance, in greater detail than that provided by the Mk I eyeball.
With the invention in the 17th Century of the telescope, by a Dutch optician, this wish was to be increasingly realized. Although Galileo put down on paper the optical principles of the telescope, there is no evidence of their construction and use until October 1608.
At the same time as the development of the monocular telescope, there is evidence to suggest that the development of two telescopes, joined together and focused (collimated) to give a single image when viewed with both eyes, was being developed in tandem. This resulted in the binocular telescope, or what we know today, as binoculars.
Early telescopes used Galilean optics which had the benefit of an upright image but were limited in the power of magnification they could deliver. Indeed, some opera glasses and cheaper models of binocular still use Galilean optics to this day.
With developments in the 18th century in optical technology using prisms, most notably the work done by Ignazzio Porro, the magnification powers of binoculars and telescopes was to be greatly enhanced. Indeed the Porro prism arrangement, was until recently, the choice of all the major manufacturers.
Combining the developments associated with lens coatings, and optical manufacturing, together with mass manufacturing techniques, has resulted in ever more affordable, high power binoculars being available today. Increasingly, the use of the lighter, roof prism arrangement of the light path, has reduced the size and weight of binoculars, and has made them increasingly portable.
The diversity of types and uses of binoculars is truly staggering.
Ranging in price from a few dollars for a compact binocular that you can carry comfortably in a shirt pocket, to astronomical binoculars, costing in the tens of thousands of dollars, there is a binocular available for every viewing need you can imagine, including 'seeing' in the dark.
Modern developments in opto-electronics and the miniaturization of components is set to take the long range viewing capabilities of the human race to levels of sophistication unimaginable, even 20 or thirty years ago. >