NEW YORK, N.Y. – The New York World’s Fair of 1964 introduced 51 million visitors to a range of technological innovations and predictions during its run. Fifty years later, some of those ideas have turned out to be commonplace in our world. Others? Not so much.
What they had right:
— “Picturephone”: Bell System introduced this innovation, which allowed people to see whom they were calling. It didn’t go over well at the time, but it’s a concept that’s an everyday part of our lives now in apps such as Skype and Facetime.
— Personal use of the computer: Several pavilions had exhibits set up where visitors could ask computers for information and get responses in seconds.
— Robotics: Walt Disney’s “It’s a Small World” exhibit introduced robotic animation in which characters sing, speak and make lifelike gestures such as smiles and blinks. It’s still in use in theme parks and movies today.
— Ford Mustang: The two-seater sports car with its long hood and short rear deck was officially unveiled at the World’s Fair and immediately became popular. It has remained in production ever since.
— Touch-tone phones: Originally introduced at the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, this was still the first time many visitors were exposed to this technology.
What they had wrong:
— Colonies on the moon, underwater and in Antarctica: The “Futurama 2” ride from General Motors, which featured images of people living in places where they clearly, uh, don’t.
— Paved-over rainforests: Another image from “Futurama 2” featured a machine that used a laser to cut through the rainforests and left behind paved roads.
— Jet packs: There were demonstrations of jet pack power at the fair, with men wearing them and zooming around the grounds. Sadly, they remain a mode of transport found mainly in science fiction.