When EPCOT Center (as it was called then) opened at Walt Disney World in 1982, it promised a glimpse into the future and its World Key Information System was one the newest and user-friendliest technologies available at the time.
Developed in conjunction with the Bell System (which would eventually become AT&T) and Western Electric, guests could walk into a space with multiple kiosks that allowed them to learn about all that the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow (EPCOT) had to offer, as well as make same-day (SAME DAY!!!) restaurant reservations anywhere on Walt Disney World property, just by touching the screen and following the prompts. Although that seems like simple child’s play nowadays, this was super duper HIGH TECH in 1982 and both fascinating and a little bit intimidating for some, so if something wasn’t quite right, a Guest Services host would appear on the screen and provide assistance as needed.
Here’s an example of what the experience was like:
Here’s a “real life” example from 1990:
And this a short video of William Shatner (because [pause] of course [pause] William Shatner) explaining the system:
Finally, here’s a rare Disney-owned documentary from 1984 (the World Key Information System stayed in place until the mid 1990s) that tells all about the behind-the-scenes stuff of the program:
During my trip to WDW in September, 1991, I distinctly remember my friend and I using the World Key kiosk to make a reservation for the restaurant in the Mexico Pavilion. I also recall summoning up a Cast Member onto my screen by mistake, being embarrassed at my faux pas (I had own a computer at home since 1984) and walking away, LOLOL!
World Key Information System was retired around 1993 or 1994. But for those first dozen or so years of Epcot’s, those touch screen kiosks were probably many people’s very first experience with touch screens and what computers could do.
And look at us now!
Special thanks to Tim M. for the one little spark of inspiration!
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