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Cultural Relevancy Pt5

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Following on from previous entries here, here, here and here  about cultural relevancy here’s is an interesting article.

Looks like a Commodore Amiga is controlling the whole air conditioning for 19 schools. Here’s the story on Yahoo:

yahoo front page

The Yahoo Main page with the story .

something strange about the accompanying image. lets take a look at the image:

The image from the yahoo website

That’s right, the picture in question isn’t of an Amiga. It’s a picture of a Commodore 64!

Looks like yahoo, have done a cursory search for an Amiga and grabbed the first image they could find without verifying whether or not it is actually an Amiga,

For those of you born after 1995, here’s what an Amiga actually looks like:


“Amiga500 system” by Bill Bertram – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amiga500_system.jpg#/media/File:Amiga500_system.jpg

Now, it could simply be  the case that an honest mistake was made. However I would assume that if you take the time to type a document, spell check it, and pass it to your editor, you might take more than a second to make sure your accompanying image is correct.

Another way to think about this article is that essentially, the article is saying ‘Wow! look at this ye olde tech that’s still running well after 30 years! and what better way of selling old tech than by having a picture of a really old machine.’

Imagine if this machine was running the air conditioning for 19 schools in the Grand Rapids Public Schools:

Bruno Barral (ByB) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Babbages Analytical Engine: Bruno Barral (ByB) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine how impressed you would be. because it’s a piece of ancient technology that still works, and it is not immediately obvious how it actually works.  Looking at the Amiga, its kind of similar to an ordinary PC, there’s a keyboard, a mouse, a monitor – all the main components of a typical user’s PC experience. There’s also a floppy disk drive. The actual model used by the school was a slightly later 1987 Amiga 200.  So what does that look like?

By Trafalgarcircle (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Trafalgarcircle (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Yeah. it kind of looks like a PC. The story is looking less and less exciting now isn’t it? Fudge a photo editing mistake, and show the keyboard of a C64 and suddenly we get that whole ‘Babbage’ vibe again.

The talk is that  the whole system will be replaced, should funding be available.  Costs are being pegged between $1.5 and $2 million

Now before you spit your tea across the room and start raging about the frittering of public money, think about this for a second:

It’s is a fair bet the Amiga was installed into an existing air conditioning/heating system for the 19 schools. What this cost is for is to install new heating and air conditioning in 19 schools and install a centralised mechanism to control them all. It’s probably also a fair bet that as the system has been working for 30 years, that the budget for maintenance of the system has most likely been moved to other departments. How mush does a new mouse really cost? and a monitor?

so this system that was not designed for controlling by an Amiga, was instead powered by another computer the size of a refrigerator. so the initial system has already been Heath-Robinson’ed about a bit. The assumption is that the original computer was probably something like a Pdp-1140 which is roughly the size of a fridge:

"Pdp-11-40" by Stefan_Kögl - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pdp-11-40.jpg#/media/File:Pdp-11-40.jpg

“Pdp-11-40” by Stefan_Kögl – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pdp-11-40.jpg#/media/File:Pdp-11-40.jpg

That would give us a rough initial installation time of the late 60’s early 70’s. That being the case, the original computer managed somewhere between 10-15 years. it’s successor lasted 200% longer so the assumption is that should a new system be installed, then it should hopefully last at least 60 years.

$200 Million between 19 schools over 60 years suddenly doesn’t look that bad really

The story itself is kind of throwaway. essentially it can be reduced down to :

Well spec’ed system operates autonomously with minimal maintenance for 30 years.

If only all IT Projects where this successful.

you can read more about the story Here.




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