CLOSE

What Smart Home Technology Looked Like in the 1980s

Smart home technology isn’t perfect (as anyone who owns an Amazon Echo that’s been activated by an episode of South Park knows), but it’s come a long way since the 1980s. In that era, the idea of controlling your appliances through a single, computerized hub sounded like science fiction. The reality, as the video below shows, was a lot less glamorous.

As Sploid reports, the YouTube page Lazy Game Reviews recently tested two early smart home systems to see how they stack up against modern devices. The first, the Pico Electronics X-10 Powerhouse from the 1980s, allowed owners to use their IBM home computer as a control center. It communicated with devices like lights via a 120kHz signal burst sent through the home’s power lines. That meant if the wiring in someone’s house wasn’t in great shape, their X-10 may not have worked as promised. It also meant that if they shared an electrical system with a neighbor who also owned an X-10, their appliances would likely turn off and on without warning as well. Despite being about 30 years old, the product can still be used in homes today. Users just need to get comfy with navigating the ancient interface and not being able to dim their LED lights.

The second system tested by Lazy Game Reviews was the HAL 2000 from the 1990s. As is the case with newer technology like Google Home, it operated through voice control technology. But the way it functioned would likely make you feel a lot more forgiving of your own home assistant. If you decided to have a conversation with someone in front of HAL, you risked it taking your chit-chat to mean all sorts of unwanted commands. Fortunately, most of the kinks that made life more of a nightmare for home owners instead of making it easier have been worked out of today's smart home technology.

Check out the two retro systems in action in the video below.

[h/t Sploid]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
The Long Now Foundation, Vimeo
arrow
technology
Jeff Bezos Is Helping to Build a Clock Meant to Keep Time for 10,000 Years
The Long Now Foundation, Vimeo
The Long Now Foundation, Vimeo

Few human inventions are meant to last hundreds of years, much less thousands. But the 10,000 Year Clock is designed to keep accurate time for millennia. First proposed in 1989, the long-lasting timepiece is finally being installed inside a mountain in western Texas, according to CNET.

The organization building the clock, the Long Now Foundation, wanted to create a tribute to thinking about the future. Founded by computer scientist Danny Hillis and Whole Earth Catalog publisher Stewart Brand, the group boasts famous members like musician Brian Eno and numerous Silicon Valley heavyweights. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is putting up the $42 million necessary to complete the project, writing that “it's a special Clock, designed to be a symbol, an icon for long-term thinking."

Measuring 500 feet tall when it's completed, the clock will run on thermal power and synchronize each day at solar noon. Every day, a “chime generator” will come up with a different sequence of rings, never repeating a sequence day to day. On specific anniversaries—one year, 10 years, 100 years, 1000 years, 10,000 years—it will animate a mechanical system within one of five rooms carved into the mountain. On the first anniversary, for instance, the clock will animate an orrery, a model of the solar system. Since they don’t expect to be alive for many of the future anniversaries, the clock’s creators won't determine animations for 100, 1000, or 10,000 years—that'll be left up to future generations. (To give you an idea of just how far away 10,000 years is, in 8000 B.C.E., humans had just started to domesticate cows for the first time.)

Though you can sign up to be notified when the clock is finished, it won’t be easy to see it up close. The nearest airport is several hours’ drive away, and the mountain is 2000 feet above the valley floor. So you may have to be content with seeing it virtually in the video below.

Clock of the Long Now - Installation Begins from The Long Now Foundation on Vimeo.

[h/t CNET]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Tynker
arrow
technology
Barbie Is Now Giving Coding Lessons
Tynker
Tynker

Mattel wants to help 10 million kids learn to code by 2020, and the toy giant is enlisting one of its most career-focused assets: Barbie. According to Engadget, Mattel is working with the coding education company Tynker to make seven Barbie-themed computer programming lessons.

Barbie has been a pilot, an architect, the president, and a computer engineer, so there may be no better character to teach kids the joys of coding. The lessons, arriving in summer 2018, will be designed for youngsters in kindergarten and up, and will teach Barbie-lovers more than just how to make apps. They’ll use Barbie’s many careers—which also included veterinarian, robotics engineer, and astronaut—as a way to guide kids through programming concepts.

An illustration depicts Barbie and her friends surrounded by cats and dogs and reads 'Barbie: Pet Vet.'

A screenshot of a Barbie coding lesson features a vet's office full of pets.

There are plenty of new initiatives that aim to teach kids how to code, from a Fisher-Price caterpillar toy to online games featuring Rey from Star Wars. This is the third partnership between Mattel and Tynker, who have already produced programming lessons using Hot Wheels and Monster High.

Kindergarten may seem a little soon to set kids on a career path as a computer programmer, but coding has been called “the most important job skill of the future,” and you don’t need to work for Google or Facebook to make learning it worthwhile. Coding can give you a leg up in applying for jobs in healthcare, finance, and other careers outside of Silicon Valley. More importantly for kids, coding games are fun. Who wouldn’t want to play Robotics Engineer Barbie?

[h/t Engadget]

All images by Tynker

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios