The Future of Technology – World’s Fair 1939

The World’s Fair in 1939 brought some very innovative new ideas that, whether it be the city of the future, electric waffle makers, or automatic washing machines, stuff that we see very commonly now. However, there is an attraction that we don’t quite have just yet, or at least on this scale, but his name is Elektro, a walking, talking, and smoking robot of the future. Currently, we have small toy robots in stores that consumers may purchase for their entertainment, but these are just small handheld toys, Elektro was a full human-sized robot capable to communicate with others and walk on its own, and if you wanted, you could have a quick smoke with him.

Elektro was so prevalent at the World’s Fair due to him being the first of his kind to be presented in front of a large audience, the people in that time have never seen a machine such as Elektro, and for the fair being all about the future they didn’t disappoint with this one. The link tagged explains some of the machinery implemented in Elektro to allow him to move and speak, although his speaking mannerisms weren’t capable of holding a comprehensible conversation, it was more of him having prerecorded messages that he would say, but people were still amazed at how technology is starting to advance. Knowing this is very important to understand the meaning behind the fair, especially the time period it was held in, as it was in the latter half of the decade following the great depression. Many people attending the fair probably had to experience difficulties caused by the great depression, this includes the people who pitched the idea for the fair. From what I interpret about the fair is that people wanted to feel a sense of hope for the future, they wanted to see what it would be like and they want to escape the harsh reality that was the great depression, so they used the fair as their escape from the real world into a whole new one.

Even today it’s quite amazing seeing some of the inventions created for the world fair as many of them led to some of the most essential pieces of machinery we have today, and not just machinery as the city of the future led to some of the roadworks we have to this day. However, Elektro just stood out to me as creating a sentient machine is something we still tackle to this day, and seeing this idea come to light at such an early time period is amazing. It makes me wonder how many more ideas could’ve been presented at the fair in years to come if it didn’t get shut down in the years to come due to the war. Yet the historical significance of the World’s Fair is prevalent in every aspect as we now benefit very heavily from it, so the next time you use a waffle maker, think about how it was first presented at the fair back in 1939.

Source for Image: /Getty Images, Bettymann. “Elektro the Moto-Man.” Elektro the Moto-Man Had the Biggest Brain at the 1939 World’s Fair This Voice-Controlled Robot Could Walk, Talk, and Smoke, and It Captivated Crowds, 28 Sept. 2018, https://spectrum.ieee.org/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU4NjY5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY5MjY3MjcwMn0.gmWk-zdcwj_VbSnM2zq9AzY9NQd74L3vZFQzoRZHFng/image.jpg?width=1240&height=930. Accessed 12 Oct. 2021. 

Website Mentioned: Marsh, Allison. “Elektro the Moto-Man Had the Biggest Brain at the 1939 World’s Fair.” IEEE Spectrum, IEEE Spectrum, 24 July 2021, https://spectrum.ieee.org/elektro-the-motoman-had-the-biggest-brain-at-the-1939-worlds-fair. 

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