Monday, October 20, 2014

21st Century As Seen From 1962 (Seattle World's Fair)

The Seattle World's Fair in 1962 was also called The 21st Century. The whole fair tried to imagine what life would be like in this century. I happened to get into this because I was reading a mystery novel involving that Fair. I got curious and went onto the Google Image search engine and spent time looking at pictures of it. I found it fascinating, both for what they got right and what they got wrong about our present time.  

In studying the above image, right away we notice people certainly looked different. I was a freshman in high school then and this was indeed the way we looked. Look at the computer the woman is using in the upper left. This is evidently what they thought our computers today would look like. They also imagined their being largely office and secretary oriented as opposed to every person in the country being plugged into his or her own personal computer, tablet and smartphone. The main thing that still is right though is that there has to be a keypad somewhere, whether virtual or actual.

 There was no energy concern of any sort in 1962. That is pretty obvious when reviewing the above image. Obviously we were going to be spending a lot of  time in vast glass enclosures. Plus we would be traveling high up in monorails and ski lift knock-offs while building more and more space needle like structures. They also liked having parties in this big glass elevated bubble. Our houses were going to be largely glass too. Little did anyone expect that energy costs would become a crisis, that the politics arising out of it would lead to USA vs. Middle East and the most accurate picture of the 21st Century would have been some suicide planes crash diving into the space needle with thousands of deaths resulting. The main thought that would occur to any one of us today looking at World's Fair Plans would be, "We're just asking for a terrorist hit with this thing." No such worry assailed them in 1962.

One big cause for excitement about the Fair was that the touch tone phone would be introduced there. While doing so, there was also a look at what a video hookup might look like in the future on one's phone. We did end up with this but our phone and video calls equipment look entirely different. Plus it is now built into all of our existing equipment. But this was at least an accurate prediction of where our interests were going. The new modern phone booths were also exhibited whereas nowadays you'd have trouble finding a pay phone of any sort. They are also very excited about vending machines. Although they are still around today, no one is excited by them. I had to laugh at the one girl carrying the sign asking if we are,  "Longing for a simpler time?" Looking at someone with that sign from 1962 while I am in 2014, makes me wonder how much simpler she could have wanted it. We also see a huge extended family attending the fair together. The median age for men getting married for the first time in 1962 was 22.7 whereas for women it was 20.3. The latest figures available are for 2012 wherein men's median age for a first marriage is 28.6 while women's is 26.6. The divorce rate was very low then and very few people pictured here would have been on second or third marriages.

Incredibly, Elvis was a huge feature at the World's Fair because he decided to do one of those godawful movies of his there. No matter what you thought of him as a singer, no one took him seriously as an actor. Since he died relatively young though, he retained his iconic stature. So arguably he and the Space Needle are the commercial items which survived the Fair the longest.

The biggest change of all though is us as a people. Seen here we are a white country of primarily European descent. The women married young and had families young. One also stayed fairly rigidly within certain societal expectations. Everyone dressed pretty much the same and wore similar hair styles, makeup and other accessories. Most people had 2 children. If women worked, they were something like a flight attendant, teacher or nurse. Notice that many of the adult woman at the Fair walk it in low heels and a skirt. Many are even fairly dressed up by today's standards. Today probably every woman would be in tennis shoes and shorts or pants.

Today this Fair would have people of all different colors in it and the younger ones would be mixing the races together very easily. Gay people would be more openly so in this crowd of people too. There would also be more handicapped people in attendance and special provisions for them would be in place. You would see just about everything in clothing, hair, makeup and accessories. There would be plenty of nerds and, standing right next to them, people in purple and green mohawk hair dos.

As for what we'd be predicting for the next century, I am afraid that our thoughts are mainly about Dystopian Societies. So either a Zombie or Climate Catastrophe Based Society would likely be on display.

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