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The film Electric Dreams (1984) is about a man who buys a computer for the first time and connects all his house-hold appliances to it, creating essentially a fully automated home which then becomes self aware and falls in love with him.

Setting the A.I. portion aside, the idea of a fully automated home through connecting of appliances through a network is not far-fetched in today's world with the Internet of Things. But how realistic was this in 1984? Were there really options to be able to purchase an adapter for your appliances and connect them to your computer? I imagine the movie takes some liberties with how easy it all was to set up, but I've always wondered whether this was even a possibility in the world of 1984 given the money and knowledge.

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Consider the current technologies that exist today that make this possible:

Wireless Networking

The first professional wireless network was developed under the brand ALOHAnet in 1969 at the University of Hawaii and became operational in June 1971. The first commercial wireless network was the WaveLAN product family, developed by NCR in 1986.

1991 2G cell phone network June 1997 802.11 "Wi-Fi" protocol first release 1999 803.11 VoIP integration

A wireless network does not seem likely, then, since commercially they were not available until 1986.

Bluetooth

The development of the "short-link" radio technology, later named Bluetooth, was initiated in 1989 by Nils Rydbeck, CTO at Ericsson Mobile in Lund, Sweden and by Johan Ullman.

Bluetooth was invented after 1989, so no there.

Arduino Technology

The Arduino project started in 2003 as a program for students at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Ivrea, Italy, aiming to provide a low-cost and easy way for novices and professionals to create devices that interact with their environment using sensors and actuators. Common examples of such devices intended for beginner hobbyists include simple robots, thermostats and motion detectors.

2003 is much later than 1984, so another no.

That means it would have to be wired. The main character would need to understand how to wire every electrical component in his house and create an interface to the PC. Since this was the dawn of affordable personal computing (in the home, not just at work), the likelihood that an end user (and say, not an electrical engineer at IBM) would know how to create the necessary interfaces for each class of his electronics (TV, thermostat, basic electric circuiting) is very low to nil.

  • In the movie it is all wired and it shows the main character using adapters to connect everything. – sanpaco Nov 9 '18 at 18:42
  • Ok. I didn't see this one. I'm not sure those adapters (or interfaces) existed. But, if IBM saw fit to create them in anticipation of popular home use, then this was possible. Now, that begs the question of whether some software company created an application to control the devices. I think that is unlikely. But, if IBM created the adapters, then they would have had their R+D working on such a software. I'd say it's possible in this case. – Jason P Sallinger Nov 9 '18 at 18:45
  • Probably worth noting the difference between "electric" and "electronic" here. Most household appliances in the 80s would've been the former, I think, so unless these "adapters" were somehow able to manipulate the physical dials and levers on the appliances in question, I'm not sure how they would have worked in the real world. I haven't seen this movie myself, but I'm guessing this is a detail they glossed over pretty quickly, if they even addressed it at all. – Steve-O Nov 9 '18 at 21:07
  • It's kind of silly viewing this question through technologies we use today to accomplish this type of thing. It would be like answering "Could we connect printers to computers in 1985?" with "No, because USB didn't exist." – aryxus Nov 12 '18 at 20:56

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