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Promoting Spaceship Earth, 1982

Making the rounds on Twitter last weekend was this remarkable video, made by the Bell System in 1982 to promote their sponsorship of Spaceship Earth at the newly-opened EPCOT Center. The “Chronicle News Update” contains a chat with AT&T president William Ellinghaus, who presided over the pavilion’s opening ceremony, as well as Disney CEO Card Walker.

More importantly, it contains a look beyond the pavilion to AT&T’s other contributions to the park, which were found at FutureCom in CommuniCore West. Long-gone exhibits such as “The Amazing Microchip” and the “Network Map” are shown, as is the still-spectacular Information Fountain and the folk-art (and song!) that were part of the Age of Information show. It really does get across how funky CommuniCore was back in the day, and underscores the pleasant atmosphere that has been lost in years since.

Another nice treat for EPCOT history buffs is the footage of the WorldKey Information System kiosk that graced the bridge from Future World to World Showcase; this is one of the less-remembered WorldKey outposts so it’s good to have this video. I’m fascinated by the clip of the WorldKey system itself that they show during the film – it is not the WorldKey that I recall. The icons are far more primitive, and the voice is not “Bit” – the character who would later host the WorldKey presentations. Perhaps this is a prototype of the system? WorldKey was tested in various Walt Disney World locations in the years leading up to EPCOT’s opening, and I wonder if this isn’t one of those prototype implementations.

This video is one of several posted by the AT&T Archives; I highly recommend that you check out their YouTube channel for a number of remarkable films and videos from the last century. Some are quite amazing – and hilarious.

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4 comments to Promoting Spaceship Earth, 1982

  • RO93461

    It struck me that the future of communications shown in the ride and the pavilion completely missed the Cellular and Smart Phone Revolution, and that the real innovation would not happen at AT&T but elsewhere. The future turned out to be wireless. The network would not be the centerpiece of the future communication as much as the hardware, like the handheld Smart Phone. They predicted Skype to a degree and that came true. Great video, what a find!

  • Scott

    That is exactly the Worldkey kiosks I remember. Did they later change them? I remember making dinner reservations on them talking to a live attendant.

  • jason3fc

    RO93461 – I have thought the same thing for years looking back on the whole Bell/At&T exhibit at EPCOT. They really did miss the fact that the internet would be what it was, how it was, and that would lead to the handheld smartphone revolution of all that information in our pockets, connected to so many people and places, but absolutely ignoring everyone around us. I guess that’s not the kind of communication they wanted to celebrate. I thought the same thing when I watched Back to the Future II the other day, they got a lot of things right in there, but communications wasn’t really one of them. There were fax machines everywhere, and Faxphone booths.

  • RO93461

    The funny thing about most World’s Fairs is that they are really there to market what they have and the more near term vision of the refinements of those products. You seldom see a “game changer”. Kodak would have not shown you a world without film.

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