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In the 25 years since President Roosevelt opened the last New York World's Fair, life has become increasingly dependent on electronics. So has the art of producing a world's fair.

Without electronics the fair would have been possible, but much less an expression of our time. Even before shovels began to dig into the ground at Flushing Meadow, the fair's official symbol and focal point, the United States Steel Co.'s Unisphere, was being designed by a computer. Without the help of the IBM 704, a U.S. Steel engineer says, the project "would have taken us something like 10 years."

About 670 simultaneous equations had to be solved to design this 120-foot sphere. Its 940,000 pounds of stainless steel form a structure that is mathematically indeterminate to over 1,000 degrees. The solution was done in matrix form in several trials.

Another computer-planned exhibit is the General Electric Co. building. A GE 225 computer with critical - path - method programing helped to plan the construction of the complex pavilion.


An animated celebrity

In an obvious attempt to replace people with something more durable, several exhibits are featuring animated figures that talk, sing, dance and make faces. About 460 Audio-Animatronic figures for four pavilions were produced by Walt Disney's Imagineers.

One Disney figure, Grandma, is already something of a celebrity. She has been passed off as a real person on a first-class transcontinental flight and checked in and out of the Presidential Suite at the Americana Hotel in New York, both without major incident. Starting April 22 she'll work at the GE exhibit, joining other animated figures in telling the story of progress through electricity.

An animated Abraham Lincoln in the Illinois pavilion will resemble the 16th president down to the smallest detail and mannerism. Lincoln will be programed for 47 complex body motions and 17 facial expressions. He will clear his throat, twitch one eyebrow at a time, and deliver patriotic speeches with lavish choral accompaniment and lighting effects.

Though the figure will be operated by hydraulic, pneumatic and mechanical means, his actions will be programed on a 32-channel magnetic tape one inch wide, carrying speech and music tracks as well as sonic and ultrasonic pulses that control up to 438 separate actions. Besides determining Lincoln's actions, the tape will control stage and theater lighting, sound effects and the stage curtain.

Cavemen and monsters

In the Ford Motor Co. pavilion, Disney animations will depict cavemen and a family of fighting prehistoric monsters. The Pepsi-Cola show will include a salute to Unicef -the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund by Disney figures of singing and dancing children from several countries.