Aboard the Disney Wayback Machine

In 1984, my Dad, Giggles and I embarked on our second "Southern Exposure" summer vacation. Three glorious weeks, the highlight of which was to be four days at Walt Disney World.

This was back in the days when there were two parks, the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT (Center). Epcot (Center) captivated us, because it was similar in feel to the first Southern Exposure trip to the 1982 World's Fair (and the 1984 World's Fair we would attend a week later). Exhibits to show us what technology would bring in the future, pavilions of countries around the world and enough to fill two full days touring that park.

All the technology exhibits were housed in two buildings dubbed Communicore, which looked like parentheses flanking Spaceship Earth (the globe that is the park's icon). Most of them were forgettable (and probably laughable now, as the ideas presented were impractical and unfeasible.)

One did stand out, and that was the Face to Face booths. The way it worked was that you would stand at a booth and look at a screen that had a camera hidden in it's corner. A cast member would show up on the screen. You could ask questions about anything about the Walt Disney Company, obtain dining reservations for any restaurant on property and request that they quiz you on your Disney knowledge.

It was a front runner of teleconferencing and web cams. I know, you're thinking 'big whoop', but this was 24 years ago and the concept was new and different. I was fascinated with this attraction and spent about a half an hour utilizing it, even making dinner reservations for the next night.

When we climbed the steps to leave the attraction, we inadvertently had a Wizard of Oz like unveiling. The Cast Members that were video conferencing with the guests? They all were sitting in front of cameras on the balcony above the exhibit floor, but far enough back that they could have easily escaped notice. It still impressed me to have real time video chat with someone. In 1984, home computing was in its infancy and modems were 300 baud-far too slow to transmit the quantity of information those cameras might have put out.

Flash forward to today. I had occasion to visit my credit union, as I needed to deposit a check in person or suffer the five day hold that happens with ATM deposits with the CU Here network members. The credit union in my last tie to working for Disney and one that I'm reluctant to sever.

It's been a couple of years since I've been to the branch. For that matter, I hardly ever bank in person with them, using the ATMs of their credit union partners. I went to the main location, one off Disney property that I'd last been in when we first moved here in 2004.

When I walked in, I noticed two young ladies at the counter in front of the branch, but knowing Partners (Vista, it will always be Vista), this was an information center. I was engaged in a conversation on the phone and wasn't paying full attention, just walking over to the stanchions and the table that had the deposit slips.

I noticed a bank of screens along the back wall and assumed that these were numerous touch screen ATMs. The credit union tends to be cutting edge when the technology has a practical application.

Once off the phone, I looked around for the tellers, going so far as to walk out into the vestibule and back into the branch. Wait a minute, the table with all the forms by the stanchions? It had that requisite "Enter here" sign, indicating that this was the line for the tellers. Then I noticed the one customer standing at one of those screens.

That wasn't a touch screen, it was a VIDEO screen. There was a phone and a little lens of a camera pointing out, and the young lady was behind a wall. I walked up to another of the screens, put my check, deposit slip and ID into a drawer exactly like you see at the bank's drive through, picked up the phone, pressed the button that said "Call Teller."

POP! The screen came to life, and there was D, welcoming me to the branch and informing me she'd come work on my deposit as soon as she was done with the man I'd seen at the wall at the screen next to mine. There are dividers between them, allowing privacy, in case you're wondering.

The screen then went to a little histor lesson, Disney style, on the origins of banking terms. In my case, I learned that the word 'coin' originated from the Latin "cuneus" or wedge. I'll take Latin words for 1000, Alex. Now you can, too!

In no time at all, D was back, my deposit slip and ID in the now opened drawer. I
thanked D, then hung up the phone and went on my merry way, off to work. As I was walking out of the branch, it occurred to me that Disney once again found a way to use something that was innovative in 1984 and make it innovative again. Pretty neat.

Now, if only they could incorporate some of the technology displayed in Horizons, we'd be all set!


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