While many government institutions are panicking about the fact that they still have machines running Windows XP, there is one Luddite US school that has saved a bomb by being powered by a 1980s Amiga.
The 30-year-old computer has run day and night for decades and controls the heat and air conditioning at 19 Grand Rapids Public Schools.
It is proof that the Commodore Amiga really was a pretty cool computer. It was bought in the early 1980s using cash from an energy bond. At the time, the computer which is better known as a games machine was pretty bleeding edge technology and had replaced a computer which was the size of a fridge.
GRPS Maintenance Supervisor Tim Hopkins said the Amiga controls the life support 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 told Wood TV .
A Kentwood High School student programmed it when it was installed in the 1980s. It has gone wrong a couple of times, but whenever they have a problem the original programmer 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 operates on a 1200-bit modem and has a radio frequency that sends a signal to school buildings, which reply within a matter of seconds with the status of each building. The computer operates on the same frequency as some of the walkie-talkies used by the maintenance department which can sometimes cause a few problems.
If the commuter stopped working tomorrow, a staff person would have to turn each building’s climate control systems on and off by hand and a new system would cost between $1.5 and 2 million. If voters pass a $175 million bond proposal in November, the computer is on the list of things to be replaced.
They just don’t make them like that anymore.