30 Year Old Commodore Amiga Still Provides HVAC Climate Control For Michigan School System

Ever since the original Amiga A1000 launched in 1985, Commodore’s flagship desktop computer lineup has been called ahead of its time. When it first hit the scene, the Amiga’s advanced audio, graphics, and multi-tasking abilities were light years ahead of competing platforms. But, that was then. Although it still has somewhat of a cult following and is highly regarded amongst long-time geeks (like myself), the sad truth is that the Amiga can’t hold a candle to today’s modern systems in any meaningful technical category.

amiga 2000

That hasn’t stopped the Grand Rapids Public School district in Michigan from using an Amiga to control its HVAC system in 19 buildings, though. According to a story out of Grand Rapids, the Amiga-powered control system has been up and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 30 years. A student in the district, who still happens to live in the area and helps out when problems arise, helped design and program the system. And save for some hardware failures that required a trip to eBay for replacement parts, and the occasional interference from walkie-talkies used by employees that happen to use similar frequencies to a transceiver used by the control system, the rig has been working dutifully the entire time.

Astute readers will notice that it’s an Amiga 2000 at the foundation of the GPRS’ control system, which wasn’t released until 1987, so it probably hasn’t been quite 30 years that the school system has been relying on the rig, but it’s still ancient by any measure. It looks like the setup consists of an Amiga 2000, with its stock keyboard and 2-button mouse, connected to a Commodore 1702 display, a 1200-baud modem, and a device labeled “Rick – Johnson Controls” that we weren’t able to find much information on. We assume it’s part of the wireless system that links the Amiga with the various buildings.

1702 monitor

Budget constraints have prevented the school system from replacing the Amiga with more modern controls. Although they’ve received grants over the years, according to the story, funds have been diverted to more pressing projects, since the heating and cooling system was still working properly.

It’s kind of cool (no pun intended) to see an Amiga still cranking along in a critical role, but when you’ve got an ancient PC running a 7.16MHz Motorola 68000 processor and a 3.5” floppy drive responsible for controlling the HVAC systems in multiple buildings, it’s clearly time for an upgrade. We get that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but the Grand Rapids Public School system is really pushing it with this one.
Tags:  Commodore, amiga, hvac