“From the Ford Mustang to colonies on the moon: Predictions that the 1964 World’s Fair got right… and what it got very wrong,” offered up by the London Daily Mail. Though I’m not sure I agree with all of their choices for what the 1964 World’s Fair got right:
At the Bell System pavilion, engineers touted a ‘picturephone’ that allowed callers to see who they were talking to, a concept that lives on in modern-day apps such as Skype and FaceTime.
At the time, though, picture phones didn’t take off, said Lori Walters, history professor at the University of Central Florida.
She attributed that to high setup costs that made them accessible to relatively few.
And at a time when many men attended the fair in coat and tie and women in dresses, people weren’t quite ready to be seen on the phone at any hour, in their pajamas or worse.
‘We were still a little more of a formal society,’ Walters said.
Yes, just a little more.
The concept of the Picturephone eventually arrived as an option in the last decade for those who want to see the person on the other end, thanks to the Internet, Skype, and business video conferencing. But the original notion was that the Picturephone would entirely replace the phone in much the same way that television supplanted radio. (A medium, that come to think of it, is also still doing rather well.)
But what really makes these photos fascinating is that they visualize the last gasp of optimism in the overculture, arriving six months after JFK was assassinated and a year or so before LBJ believed that the government could do anything — and worse, everything — simultaneously: manned moon landings, Vietnam, Medicare, and end poverty simultaneously. When his Texas Sized rehash of the New Deal failed, and chaos reined from 1967 through 1968 and beyond, distraught liberals and the angry punitive New Left decided to take it out on the rest of us, resulting in the cynicism and doomsaying that would dominate the late ’60s and much of the 1970s. Just compare the tone of the ’64 World’s Fair and its audience of cool early Mad Men-styled men and women in the photos at the London Daily Mail with the tone of the collapsed overculture of the following decade:
Update: Gee, this wasn’t the Kennedy-era headline I had been hoping to see repeated in 2014.