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Saturday, June 14, 2014

The RCA System Communication Center

By Keith Mahne




In 1969, RCA sent out a press release for their planned involvement in the new  Walt Disney World project. The “focal point of WEDCOMM (Walter E. Disney Communications Oriented Monitoring and Management System) would be the RCA System Communication Center, open to the public as a highlight of the Tomorrowland area of the new Theme Park.” RCA planed to bring a new high-tech “System of Systems’ that would link computers, telephones, automatic monitoring and control devices, mobile communications, and television together." Continue after the page break for more insight into the extravagant RCA System Communication Center...







Let's take a look at the plans that RCA announced in 1969 as the Walt Disney Company made public much of its initial planning for Walt Disney World. Below you will see the actual RCA press release that was part of a press kit given to the media in 1969:











RCA was planning to create an innovative computer and communications infrastructure that was to be the heart of the Walt Disney World resort. Some of the goals for the system included tracking events throughout the resort, providing news and previews of activities over special television channels in the hotel rooms, and a closed-circuit television system designed to train employees. Everything would be linked together including administrative, financial, and operational functions. Another benefit to the system was the ability to build guest profiles “to assist the staff in progressively improving their service to return visitors.” Sound like something you've heard before? It was hoped that the RCA System Communication Center would open as a display in Tomorrowland.








As you can tell, this was a very ambitious plan that, unfortunately, vanished quickly. Before it did, RCA knew it needed to educate guests on what exactly a computer was. To do this, RCA was going to produce a show designed by John Hench tentatively titled Alice in Computer Land. However RCA sold its computer division to Sperry Univac, which later became UNISYS, and decided to sponsor a different attraction, Space Mountain.








Eventually, Sperry Univac went on to sponsor another attraction based on a revised version of Hench’s concept that would later appear in Epcot. The attraction was the infamous Astuter Computer Revue, that premiered with the opening of Epcot on October 1, 1982, in the CommuniCore East building.




SMRT-1




The Astuter Computer Revue was just one part of the Epcot Computer Central area that also included the much admired and extremely missed SMRT-1 (Smart One), an interactive robot who would play guessing games with guests. You could also find the Compute-a-Coaster that allowed guests to virtually assemble and ride a 3-D roller coaster, Great American Census Quiz, and other exhibits that have long faded into the abyss of Disney World history .








The RCA System Communication Center was so far ahead of its time that the closest thing in comparison is just now being utilized by the resort in the MyMagic+ system. Although the RCA System Communication Center never became a reality, it was surly an ambitious, futuristic plan that would have been a perfect fit inside Tomorrowland.





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Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true everyday.

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