Before Walt Disney’s Epcot was a theme park, it was supposed to be an actual city. With actual humans inside of it around the clock. After Walt died in 1966, the plans for Florida slowly changed. But in a newly uncovered proposal for the park’s computer and communications system in 1968, we can see what might have been.
Image from the cover of a December 1968 proposal by RCA for a communications system at DIsney’s EPCOT (Disney Avenue blog)
The Disney Avenue blog has new images from a 1968 booklet created by RCA for the Walt Disney company. The booklet is a fairly robust proposal detailing how RCA might help Disney create a futuristic experience in Florida, with everything from “mural TVs” in hotel rooms to state-of-the-art mobile communications and payment equipment.
The proposal was called WEDCOMM: Walter E. Disney Communications Oriented Monitoring and Management System. RCA wanted to come in and computerise everything from guest reservations to predicting attendance. The vision was that not only would everything the guests touched be state of the art, but everything behind the scenes would be as well.
Computer terminals for both guests and staff at Walt Disney World, as envisioned by RCA in 1968 (Disney Avenue blog)
According to the proposal, RCA also had big plans for making the transition into cashless payments, which was pretty revolutionary for the late 1960s. As we’ve looked at many times before here at Gizmodo, there were already plenty of concerns about what would happen to privacy rights in a cashless society, long before people actually started ditching cash. Some researchers in 1971 even claimed that if the Soviet Union’s KGB were to design a perfect surveillance system they’d probably use a debit card program — not unlike the debit cards we actually use here in the 21st century.
From the booklet:
WEDCOMM will function as an integral part of EPCOT’s monetary system. This will encompass electronic banking, credit card operations, credit card transfer and insurance.
Purchase transactions will be accomplished through automatic debiting of bank accounts. On line remote terminals at the point of purchase will handle the transactions. The checkless/cashless society.)
Credit card operations will be expanded to include transportation and entertainment.
Paying for transportation like taxis or monorails with credit card? Get out of here! Of course, EPCOT would slowly evolve over the next decade and a half into something that was far from Walt Disney’s original dream for a living, breathing city like the one on the cover of the RCA booklet. Progress City never came to fruition, but our cashless society is almost here. For better and for worse, I suppose.
A futuristic phone that accepts credit cards, as envisioned in the 1968 RCA proposal for Disney’s EPCOT (Disney Avenue blog)
You can see the entire booklet over at the Disney Avenue blog.