Controlling your house’s thermostat with your phone may seem cutting edge, but in the 1980s, you could program a Commodore Amiga to do the exact same thing. Thirty years later, one such archaic system, at least, is still hard at work.
In 1985, the Grand Rapids School Public School District purchased a Commodore Amiga to control the heating and AC across 19 public schools. Programmed by a local high school student, the machine was set up to use a 1200-bit modem and wireless radio signal to toggle boilers, fans, pumps, and so forth throughout the Michigan school district. It’s been faithfully executing its job night and day for over a quarter century.
According to the local news station WoodTV:
The Commodore Amiga was new to GRPS in the early 1980s and it has been working tirelessly ever since. GRPS Maintenance Supervisor Tim Hopkins said that the computer was purchased with money from an energy bond in the 1980s. It replaced a computer that was “about the size of a refrigerator.”
Sure, there have been bumps along the way. At one point or another, the computer’s monitor, mouse and keyboard have all needed to be replaced. Software glitches occasionally arise as well, and the kid who programmed the machine is the only one who knows how to fix them. (Thankfully, he still lives in the area.)
More troubling is the fact that the system’s archaic wireless communication occasionally interferes with staff walkie-talkies. If that happens, Hopkins says, “we have to clear the radio and get everyone off of it for up to 15 minutes.”
Because of the radio issue, and because (let’s be honest) the Amiga could literally keel over at any point, the school district is now making a bid for $2 million to replace the system with something much more modern. The upgrade is certainly long overdue, but a part of me really wants to know how long the old beast could keep going.
Top image via Wikimedia