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Looking Into the Future From the Past April 21, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in conventions, history, inventions, nostalgia, science, space.
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It’s hard for me to believe the Seattle World’s Fair opened on this day in 1962. My dad was a big fan of such fairs, for some reason, and one of the few family vacations that didn’t also touch on visiting relatives got us moving northward from El Paso.

For my part, I was in hog heaven. LBJ opened the NASA exhibit but who cared about petty politicians? Wernher von Braun was there, too. A real superstar in my eyes, but we couldn’t get in to see the talks. Doubt my dad would have been all that interested, since he didn’t share my enthusiasm for things outer spacial.

According to this article, JFK wasn’t at the closing ceremony because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Who knew?

The article also goes on at great length about how the fair theme was overpopulation and how we were going to nuke ourselves into oblivion. I don’t remember a bit of that, though considering that JFK was trying to keep the Russkies from doing that very thing, perhaps I should have paid more attention.

I remember the weird vending machines that kicked out hamburgers in cellophane wrappers (gee, just like the ones I buy at Costco, only they come in big boxes and not from vending machines). Never a big one of trinkets, I still got a glass sculpture of the Space Needle. Alas, I have no idea where the 6″ glass structure is. Too many moves since then doomed it, I fear.

This is the first time I ever saw color TV. KOMO had a live broadcast, their afternoon guy and a basset hound. Comparing the TV picture with the real thing was a revelation. The basset hound really wasn’t purple. That was a little disappointing. Riding the monorail was fun but not the transportation system of the future they made it out to be. Last time I was in Seattle was 1989 and rode the monorail for old time’s sake. Wasn’t the future of transportation then, either.

I remember the cube buildings and, of course, the Space Needle. In ’62 didn’t eat there because of the cost, though we did ride to the observation deck and look around. In ’89 did eat there and the view was great and the food mediocre (unlike the Calgary Tower where both view and food were superb). And nowhere was there a hint of Jessica Alba sitting on the outside.

The AT&T/Bell Labs display. I got shunted aside when I was chosen to show how much faster touchtone phone dialing was compared to rotary. And yes, I was the perfect choice and was *much* faster on the buttons. But the guy pushing this innovation didn’t appreciate my comment that the central switching system still took the same length of time to put the call through since it was mechanical, especially since he shoved a microphone in my face when he asked what I thought and hundreds of people heard.

An excursion around town to the Archway Bookstore was a revelation. El Paso didn’t have bookstores, per se. Newsstands and department stores, but an entire store of nothing but books? In the basement of the Archway was about every Ace Double ever. Or so I thought. I must have spent close to $3 on books! (A princely sum for me then) Apparently this store is long gone.

The fairgrounds is undoubtedly far different from 1989 and vastly so from 1962, but memory of seeing von Braun, the bold architecture (which style burned itself by 1970) and the idea of the future all appealed. (Another World’s Fair I went to, this one in New Orleans, had the most depressing exhibits of massive water valves and pictures of hydro plants ever–their theme was “water.” That trip was fun for reasons other than the fair.)

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