What Smart Home Technology Looked Like in the 1980s

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5
Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5 / Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5

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]