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]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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An Illinois School District Has Banned Fully Remote Students From Wearing Pajamas While Learning

The great thing about Zoom is that it's almost impossible for people to tell if you're wearing pajamas.
The great thing about Zoom is that it's almost impossible for people to tell if you're wearing pajamas.
August de Richelieu, Pexels

Having most of your interactions via video chat can be a little exhausting, but it does come with a few perks—like being able to wear your pajama pants without anybody knowing or caring. For students facing remote learning in Illinois’s Springfield School District, however, PJs are against the rules.

WGRZ reports that the dress code for Springfield’s learn-from-home plan includes a ban on pajamas, which a number of parents aren’t too happy about.

“I don’t think they have any right to say what happens in my house,” parent Elizabeth Ballinger told WCIA. “I think they have enough to worry about as opposed to what the kids are wearing. They need to make sure they’re getting educated.”

Aaron Graves, president of the Springfield Education Association, doesn’t actually appear to disagree with Ballinger.

“In truth, the whole pajama thing is really at the bottom of our priority scale when it comes to public education,” Graves told WCIA. “We really want to see kids coming to the table of education, whether it’s at the kitchen table with the laptop there or whether it’s the actual brick and mortar schoolhouse. Raising the bar for all kids and helping them get there, whether they’re in their pajamas or tuxedo, is really what’s important.”

Though the pajama prohibition was part of the regular in-school dress code [PDF], imposing it from afar will definitely be more difficult. Fortunately, the administration’s enforcement policy is pretty vague; a statement shared with WCIA explained that “there are no definitive one-to-one consequences” for wearing your pajamas to online school, and teachers will decide what to do about any given violation.

In other words, it looks like kids with easygoing teachers (and parents) will get to stay in their nightshirts, while others might have to learn their multiplication tables in tuxedos.

[h/t WGRZ]