Soviet “smart home”, invented 33 years ago

Nostalgia for the Soviet era has under itself the real bases. So, the first “smart home” was invented back in 1987. The project was called” SPHINX”, and information about it appeared in the magazine “Technical aesthetics”.

The SPHINX concept

The project had nothing to do with Ancient Egypt, the abbreviation stands for super-functional integrated communication system. The creators dreamed that this would be the “smart home” in 2020. the Main task is to provide a person with interfaces for interacting with all home electronics. The goal is to combine devices into a single system.

Externally, the SPHINX looked like an ordinary modern laptop. Keyboard, screen, handset, flat speakers. Inside – a processor that provides interaction of everything and everything, as well as storing information. For communication with devices – wires: they had to entangle the entire apartment. About something wireless dreamed and guessed, but the specifics were not yet there. It is important that the control channel was already separated from the power supply channels and communication interfaces between devices.

We should talk about the processor separately. Even then, the designers conceived it to be modular. The computing system and the storage subsystem existed separately from each other. The division into modules was also functional: a separate block was intended for processing each type of media. Modules could be used to increase RAM and data storage area. In fact, modern computer technologies with integrated chips were predicted.

The functionality of the “smart home»

The basic functionality of SPHINX resembled a regular (for today’s times) PC. Watch a movie or TV show, listen to music, get weather reports, organize a video call with a conversation (there was no talk about conferences yet) – the entire range was available.

But there were also insiders. For example, a wireless remote with a microphone that you could connect the display to. This meant that the system was going to be taught to process voice messages: Hello, “Alice”, to you from the past! The feedback should also have been audible.

The remote was also innovative. In addition to the analog buttons, there was a touch screen. That is, modern smartphones were invented more than 30 years ago.

The implementation of some ideas was not disclosed in detail. Among them:

headphones for wireless communication;
wireless glasses for watching videos, including online broadcasts;
integration bus for connecting other devices;
converting voice to text;
support for a variety of media (from records and photographic film to floppy drives).

The idea of a universal storage medium was only a dream: no one expected that in a couple of decades terabyte storage would become a mass phenomenon. I didn’t need any memory crystals, but it was a great idea.

“SPHINX” is a work of science fiction that anticipated many of the ideas of our time.