Five Things – 8.6.12

1.  World Key – My first visit to EPCOT was in 1984.  I was still so young that my parents had a stroller for me, even though I could walk around as well.  After getting off of a ride, we noticed that my stroller had been taken by somebody else.  My parents asked an employee what they should do, and we were all guided to a World Key terminal.  Through a touch screen interface, my parents had a two-way video conversation with EPCOT customer service, who were able to get us a replacement stroller right away.  For some reason this memory sticks out to me, though I don’t remember a lot of the finer details like what ride we were on or what color my stroller was or why we couldn’t just go to the stroller kiosk and get another one.  Anyway, the fact that we could have a touch-screen videocall with an EPCOT employee in 1984 sums up just what makes me so nostalgic about EPCOT as an adult.  The entire park felt like you were in a prototype version of the future, not just some exhibit on what the future might be like.


world key


The World Key system was an array of kiosks all over the park.  In addition to their video chat technology, they also had little information databases on each attraction, restaurant, and other details about the park.  You could make dinner reservations through it or get information on any of the resorts at Walt Disney World.  Developed with Bell Labs, the kiosks used fiber optic cables to access a central bank of laserdiscs (laserdiscs!) to retrieve the information.  This proved difficult to update regularly, as the entire laserdisc would need to be rewritten, and the World Key slowly faded out of relevance and then out of existence.  Here’s a video of the World Key system in use – must be in the early 90s, as the Wonders of Life pavilion is featured:

Progress City, USA has a post on the World Key featuring AT&T’s (formerly Bell Labs) attempts to market this in the “real world”.  The system was called Ariel and it was marketed at apartment buildings, hotels, movie theaters, anywhere that had the same sort of information-retrieval needs that a theme park might have.




While it wasn’t a commercial success, it’s endeavors like this and the PeopleMover that emphasize EPCOT’s original intent: to be a laboratory for technologies aimed at making everyday life better in the real world.  That facet is almost non-existant in today’s EPCOT, and there doesn’t really seem to be an experience that picks up the slack.  It’s a shame.



2.  AT&T Viewtron – Going to ride the AT&T information-retrieval wave here and feature this video on the Viewtron system.  The Viewtron is kind of a halfway point between reading newspapers and actually accessing the internet through early services like Prodigy and Compuserve.  The video, though…the video:


It’s almost like something out of a Tim and Eric bit.  To be fair, this looks good for 1983. Also, I don’t know how that lady ever knew when her placemats were clean. I guess she could have just bought new ones at Burdines, using the Viewtron.


3.  Pro Stars – Pro Stars answers the burning question in any 1991 kid’s mind: what if Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson and Wayne Gretzky teamed up to fight crime and help kids all over the country?  A short lived cartoon on NBC, Pro Stars addressed that issue week after week, for about ten weeks.  Then it got cancelled.  My nephews were either given a videotape of this show or found it themselves at a thrift store, and were obsessed with it for a short time.  There’s nothing surprising about Pro Stars – not that somebody tried to make it, not that it was terrible, and not that it got cancelled.

Here’s the intro.  It’s all about helping kids!


4.  Total Recall – With the remake of Total Recall hitting theaters last week, I thought I’d share the trailer  from the original.  Total Recall is probably my favorite movie, for many reasons.  Nostalgia’s a huge one, but it adapts a Philip K. Dick story relatively well and the effects of Mars are pretty believable given when it was produced.  The mutants are pretty well put-together, and the action is just over-the-top ridiculous.  Putting a few skeptical questions aside (why was the JohnnyCab programmed to scream “ahhhh!”and drive into a wall and explode when somebody didn’t pay their fare? How come there was no blood when Quaid pulled a ping pong ball out of his nose?), the scene that gets me the most is the “Two Weeks” scene, where Quaid is caught in the disguise of a large woman who keeps repeating “Two Weeks”.  The head comes apart and Quaid is inside! He throws the head at the guards, and the head explodes, allowing Quaid to get away.  Okay, another thing – the head was programmed to say “Get ready for a surprise!” before exploding? Anyway, I couldn’t find the scene itself, but most of it’s here in the trailer:


5.  Bonkers – Since I’m basically just churning out YouTube links this week (this week?), here’s an old commercial for Bonkers candy.  Bonkers was noteworthy for its gooey candy center, surrounded by a gummy shell.  I don’t know why they thought the ad campaign, featuring people squashed by enormous fruit when eating Bonkers, would encourage people to eat Bonkers.



One Comment

  1. Bill Jings says:

    Really digging the reaction shots of the first Viewtron user. “Hmm! Hot stuff,” he seems to say with his eyes. He could be flipping through Playboy. Maybe he is!

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