Friday, June 12, 2015

Meanwhile in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a single Commodore Amiga controls the heat/AC for public school district

Seriously, all 19 schools have their boilers and ACs controlled by a Commodore Amiga that was bought in the 80s and programmed by a student. In fact, the same person still provides the tech support for it.
The computer is responsible for turning the heat and the air conditioners on and off for 19 school buildings.

“The system controls the start/stop of boilers, the start/stop of fans, pumps, [it] monitors space temperatures, and so on,” Hopkins explained.

A Kentwood High School student programmed it when it was installed in the 1980s. Whenever the district has a problem with it, they go back to the original programmer who still lives in the area.
Parts for the computer are difficult to find, Hopkins said. It is on its second mouse and third monitor.
“It’s a very unique product. It operates on a 1200-bit modem,” said Hopkins. “How it runs, the software that it’s running, is unique to Commodore.”
There are some problems though:
Hopkins said the system runs on a radio frequency that sends a signal to school buildings, which reply within a matter of seconds with the status of each building. The only problem is that the computer operates on the same frequency as some of the walkie-talkies used by the maintenance department.

“Because they share the same frequency as our maintenance communications radios and operations maintenance radios — it depends on what we’re doing — yes, they do interfere,” Hopkins said.
If that happens, “we have to clear the radio and get everyone off of it for up to 15 minutes.”
According to the article, the Amiga is slated for replacement by a $1-2 million system if the school district gets a $175 million bond approved. It just amuses the hell out of me that a 30+ year old computer is still responsible for making sure that students and faculty in almost twenty schools don't fry or freeze. On the other hand, it was pointed out in the comments of the original article and at the BoingBoing forums that the Amiga could easily be replaced with Raspberry Pi, which costs like $30 per unit. It would do the exact same thing that the Amiga is doing so well, but wouldn't cost millions.

h/t BoingBoing.

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