1964 World’s Fair reveals both groundbreaking and ridiculous predictions

By Jacob Carter, Staff Writer
@jacobca1995

Unfortunately, jet packs still fail to exist outside our wildest imaginations./ PHOTO BY Flickr user David J

Unfortunately, jet packs still fail to exist outside our wildest imaginations./ PHOTO BY Flickr user David J

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The event introduced a number of technological innovations to the general public. It is interesting to see how several inventions acted as precursors to today’s technology, while others are still the objects of science fiction.

One device that made a notable debut at the fair was the “picturephone,” developed by Bell System. As the name suggests, this groundbreaking item allowed people to call individuals and see the party on the other line. Though it was not well-received initially, the “picturephone” is clearly an ancestor to modern video communication services such as Skype.

Another device that proved to be revolutionary, arguably even more than the “picturephone,” was the personal computer. While the idea was nascent at the time, it is hard to believe that such a crucial modern invention materialized only half a century ago.

Of course, far more interesting than remarking on the innovations of the World’s Fair is laughing at its failures. For example, according to the “Futurama 2” ride presented by General Motors, people were clearly ambitious in terms of where humanity’s new frontiers were located. The company presented images of people colonizing the moon and living underwater, two environments that remain just as inhospitable now as they were then.

And no future speculation would be complete without the discussion of jet packs. Constantly touted as the hallmark of technological advancement, these devices also made an appearance at the event, apparently complete with actual flying demonstrations. Sadly, humans have yet to adopt this method of travel, and popular use of the jet pack exists as a reality only in the worlds of James Bond and science fiction.

Despite being a breeding ground for some eccentric ideas, the 1964’s World Fair was still an environment for revolutionary modernizations. As mentioned, some of these devices matured into what are now essential inventions, and their evolution is an indicator of just how fast and complex technology continues to grow.

Jet packs and underwater colonies may still seem laughable today, but as evidenced by the “picturephone,” one cannot even prepare to imagine how the world will transform in another fifty years. With that in mind, I think I’ll go ahead and put my name on the moon colony waiting list.

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