In the mid-1970s, Americans were reeling from the energy crisis. The environment was in terrible shape and oil shock was disrupting the economy. So the U.S. Department of Energy developed a new tool to help kids learn about energy use. It was called the Energy-Environment Simulator and it was more fun than a barrel of crude. Or not.
The blog Root Simple has posted a modern photo of the simulator. The author claims to have picked it up at a San Diego thrift store in the 1990s. The “toy” (and I guess I use that term liberally) was a noble attempt to get kids engaged in long-term thinking about how we use energy. But boy does it look boring as hell.
From the March 4, 1978 edition of the Spectator in Terre Haute, Indiana:
With flashing LED displays, the device demonstrates how supply, demand and the environment are intertwined. A clock operating at 100 years per second governs the computer as it projects far into the future.
As boring as it was, it had quite a shelf life in the American public school system. I’ve found references to the thing being used in the classroom as late as 1996. And I’m sure there could be some schools that still use it today.
Did you ever come face to face with the thing? Was it as achingly boring as it looks?
Images: Modern photo of the Energy Environment Simulator from Root Simple; Anderson College newspaper photo from the December 17, 1977 Anderson Daily Bulletin
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