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Cutting Edge Digital Evangelism in 1984

Although the title of this post might make some recall George Orwell’s famous book 1984 or even the Apple ad shown at the Super Bowl that year, I’m actually referring to much smaller, probably entirely unknown event.

The 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans

As part of my mom’s current downsizing project, she gave me a folder full of old keepsakes. One of these was a little coloring book from Louisiana World’s Fair held in New Orleans in 1984.

Below is the cover and the first few pages:

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If you look closely, you’ll notice a few things. First off, apparently I wasn’t the most gifted “inside the lines” colorer of all time.

But more importantly, you can see that the book was printed in a dot matrix style with my full name “John Dyer” and the name of the person who acquired this for me: “Granddad Dyer.” In the subsequent pages, you’ll notice a few more customizations: my name is used several more times, there is a reference to me as “young man” and my “very special grandfather,” and then on the last page our old address in Mississippi is printed out.

I was only about 5 at the time, so I don’t remember the Fair or how this was done, but I imagine that at the time this was a fairly impressive project. The theme of the 1984 Fair was “The World of Rivers—Fresh Waters as a Source of Life” and the booklet references a special “River of Life” exhibit put on by the Churches of Christ  (wikipedia | equip). The back cover refers to a company called Ideact in Knoxville (there is a still a YellowPages reference to them, but when I called them the number is no longer valid) which was evidently tasked with producing some kind of live printing system for the exhibit.

My guess is that they had a walkup computer terminal of some kind that allowed people to enter their name and a few details, and then it “magically” printed a booklet right on the spot that recalled the exhibit.

Imagine how cool that would be in an era before most people had a computer in the home.

30 Years Later

Today, believers around the world are experimenting with ways to use technology to communicate the Gospel, and I find examples like this to be great reminders that we stand in a long line of men and women who have been doing this a lot longer than us.

By God’s Spirit, I hope they succeeded in reaching a few.

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John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

One thought on “Cutting Edge Digital Evangelism in 1984”

  1. I am always amazed by how far the Good News can travel in today’s technological atmosphere. I agree, but hope it reaches more than just a few…lol. :)

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