Man's speediest communication was once by drumbeat and smoke signal. Now he sends messages around the world by bouncing them off satellites in space. The story of this breathtaking advance in communications is told visually in a 15-minute armchair ride in the giant "floating wing" that compromises the upper story of this pavilion. In a lower level, an exhibit hall is devoted to the technology of modern communications and its history of continuous development. The wing itself, 400 feet long, is covered with lightweight Fiberglas and rests on just four pylons. Next to it rises one of the tallest structures at the Fair, a 140-foot microwave tower through which TV shows originating at the Fair are transmitted. Windows at the base of the tower look in on the control equipment and the engineers and monitors on duty.
The Bell System Pavilion had a very prominent location at the Fair. In this view from the Swiss Sky Ride, the Bell System is seen across the Main Mall, with its Fountains of the Fairs, and behind the Fountain of the Planets. (CD #14 Set 72 #11)
The sheer size of the pavilion can be appreciated in this view, especially when the size of the people is used as a comparison. The cantilevered construction used to achieve the floating effect was quite advanced for its time. (CD #20 Set 105 #4)
A bygone symbol of a bygone era - the logo of the once mighty Bell System. RIP, Ma Bell. (CD #31 Set 160 #7)
From Drumbeat to Telstar. For the tour through communications history, the visitor, in a moving chair, is whisked through scenes showing the progress of man's efforts to communicate with others. Movies, stage sets and specially projected pictures tell the story with a theatrical three-dimensional effect, accompanied by music and a narration.
Seated in the moving armchairs, these visitors are off to enjoy the show. It looks like some are finding it more enjoyable than others. (CD #15 Set 74 #6)
Telephones and Tic-Tac-Toe. The technological exhibits in the lower level of the Bell pavilion are interspersed with games. Visitors may test their own musical pitch or they may play tic-tac-toe. The development of the telephone is illustrated, and guests may use actual "picturephone" instruments developed by Bell Telephone Laboratories. The Visible speech exhibit transforms voices into visual symbols on a TV screen. The products of more than 80 years of research and development by the Bell System are on display. A large illuminated wall screen traces the various networks that tie together local, national and international calls. (CD #TBD Set 350 #9)
This was the Picturephone exhibit, where guests could see other callers in the pavilion or at far-off Disneyland. Predictions that one of these would be in every house and business fell far short, and even today, video telephones have yet to become commonplace. (CD #30 Bell System #2)
Although Picturephone would eventually prove to be a failure, it was very popular at the Fair. Would-be callers were chosen at random from the waiting crowd, and there was never a shortage of guests wanting to try the communication marvel of the future. Once connected to another caller, who would be a total stranger, many users of the system realized they didn't really have a lot to say to them.
Keen-eyed viewers will see that the phone used for the system sported a very rare 11-button Touch Tone dial. The first public Touch Tone phones only had 10 buttons, with the * and # keys added in following years. This unusual model is missing the * key. (CD #TBD Set 350 #15)