19 September 2020

Amusement Parks and Theme Parks

Whether you consider a permanent Amusement Park, a transient Carnival, or a full-fledged Theme Park, you are thinking about one of the most concentrated examples of engineering/technology applied to entertainment. You are liable to find anything from a simple set of contorting mirrors in a fun house to a heart-pounding thrill ride. Think about a roller coaster train that must develop enough energy when it plunges down one hill to enable it to get to the top of the next hill, or a swinging ride that must get going fast enough that the car can swing up and over the top, completing a full vertical circle If this is not challenging enough, think about a traveling carnival, with rides that in a relatively short time can each be taken down and stowed on a set of highway trailers, to be trucked to the next location—where the cycle is repeated. Then there are theme parks, where each attraction has the added requirement that its substance and décor support the overall park theme that might range from motion picture creation at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios to Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Or think of something as seemingly non-technical as how you pay for your day at the park.

Years ago (and still in some places today), you paid for tickets for each ride or attraction. Often you would buy a packet of identical tickets, and each ride required a specified number of tickets, different for different rides. In the early days of Disneyland, you would buy a packet of differently-valued tickets, each valuation identified by a letter. The packet contained more of the lower-valued tickets, and only a couple of the most valuable “E” tickets. Different attractions specified which ticket was 86 needed for that attraction. The most thrilling and desirable rides required E tickets—which led to a general usage that the top rides in any park were “E Ticket” rides. At some point, many parks changed to a single-price admission ticket, which entitled the park guest to enjoy all (or almost all —there might be some special “extra fare” ride) of the park’s attractions. By the start of the 21st century, Walt Disney World resorts were providing guests with magnetic-striped plastic cards resembling credit cards, that served as hotel room keys, park entry tickets, and charge cards for charging expenses in the parks back to your hotel bill. Cards were inserted into “slot” readers where the information encoded in the magnetic stripe was read.

In the spring of 2013, the cards looked the same, but contained RFID (Radio Frequency ID) chips in addition to magnetic stripes. At many places in the parks the slot readers were replaced by round pads, against which the user placed the card to open the room door, enter the park, or pay for a meal. This is said to be the precursor to replacing the plastic cards with wristbands including RFID chips. It will only be necessary for a guest to hold their wrist near the pad reader to enter their room, enter a park, or make a purchase. It is actually anticipated (James 2013) that the chips in the wristbands will be encoded with more data, like the wearer’s name. Imagine a youngster approaching a Disney character at a meet-and-greet, and being welcomed by the character by name

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