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Jetpack at the 1982 World's Fair

Here at the Paleo-Future blog we look at the work of many visionary people; John Elfreth Watkins Jr, Arthur Radebaugh, Harry Grant Dart, Victor Cohn... but few deserve the title of professional badass of the retrofuture. William P. Suitor no doubt deserves that distinction, risking life and limb to bring us that much closer to a jetpack-filled future.

That's Suitor in this 1966 footage from Disneyland, this photo from the 1964 New York World's Fair, and above in a photo from the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. My generation, (I was just a twinkle in my father's eye in 1982), probably best knows about the 1982 World's Fair through the 1996 Simpsons episode, Bart on the Road

You can find many more great pictures in Suitor's book, Rocketbelt Pilot's Manual: A Guide by the Bell Test Pilot.


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I visited the '82 World's Fair as one of the high points of a cross-country road trip with my family; it was the summer before I went to high school. The thing I remember most clearly, I suppose, was the prominent use of lasers, lasers, lasers all over the place, especially around the Federal Express pavilion. The future of 1982 was a very lasery world. (Some holograms too.)

I also remember thinking that, at a time when oil crises were still getting a lot of attention and energy conservation was on people's minds, using energy as the theme for a World's Fair was a bit of a downer, as if it were the Limits to Growth Fair. But the exhibits managed to be quite positive in their futurism anyway.

January 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt McIrvin

I too was at the 1982 World's Fair. I remember that practically the only pavilions that actually kept to the energy theme were those from the Eastern Bloc. There was one (maybe East Germany, or Hungary) that talked all about a more efficient form of air conditioning or something like that. There weren't any lines for that one!

Hungary had a big Rubik's cube outside its pavilion because Rubik's cubes were big then, and Hungary was proud that a Hungarian invention had caught on in the West (Ernő Rubik was a Hungarian professor who had invented the puzzle to help students think in 3 dimensions).

Japan had a robot that painted pictures. That didn't have anything to do with energy, but 1982 was when Japan was on top of the world and was showing off how more advanced it was,

And Pac-Man and other video games were a big part of the fair too -- I remember it had a big arcade (maybe several).

January 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Badger

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