Sphinx: Few Decades Old Soviet ‘Smart Home’ Concept and Automation System

Forget Apple and Samsung, this is their father

Photo: budushchee /

In 1970, the staff of the Soviet journal “Science and Technology” predicted full automation of the construction of buildings, roads, dams and the emergence of a whole network of ground and air transport, operated by an autopilot, by 2000. Similar predictions related to everyday life: smart homes will know when and what to cook, wash, turn on and off.

One of the prototypes of the modern smart home was the project of electronic equipment “Sphinx” (a superfunctional integrated communication system) .

The system consisted of spherical and flat acoustic and speakers, a thin liquid crystal or gas plasma screen, a handheld console with a removable display, a large remote with a handset, a headset, a processor with three memory blocks and a small screen.

In fact, the number of items was not strictly defined, the person himself had to acquire the necessary number of screens, processors and consoles to equip his apartment.

The system allowed to work with the information base, manage all home radio electronics, communicate with other subscribers of the network, conduct some kind of modern online conferences and perform entertainment functions such as playing music and playing video – all this not only with the help of control panels, but also by voice .

In addition to interesting and wide functionality, I could not help admiring the appearance of the system – it looked so stylish.

The developer of the concept is Dmitry Azrikan , who together with Alexey Kolotushkin and Valery Gossen at an international seminar in Yerevan anticipated the ideas of Apple and Google, which today create entire ecosystems of gadgets.About the “Sphinx” told in 1987 the magazine “Technical Aesthetics”, his appearance was promised by the year 2000, but more information about the complex did not appear anywhere.

The SPHINX equipment was designed to have everything integrated into one single system, and it was not just about creating a smart house: it also had a lot to do with solving some of the more important problems facing Soviet men and women. Say, for instance, that someone wanted to increase the functionality of his or her tape recorder. Back in the day, they would most certainly have come face to face with a number of difficulties with compatibility.

Ergonomics too had its share of issues, since quite often even the appearance of the TV and the recorder had little, if anything, in common.

The project included spherical speakers, a monitor, headphones, a handheld with a removable display, a futuristic diskette drive, a processor with three memory blocks and much more. “In the case of the use of the system by one consumer or the simultaneous consumption of the same information in different rooms of the apartment, it is sufficient to use one block of memory.

The processor allows you unlimited increase of the number of memory blocks, which makes it possible at the same time to receive or reproduce several programs for different family members, “- wrote the magazine” Technical Aesthetics “in the 6th issue in 1987.

“It enables you to program your entire set of home electronics and other equipment through a central computer processor. It may also include a communication system, which why it comes equipped with a phone handset.” – Technical Aesthetics (1987)

1986–1992 Covers of ‘Technical Aesthetics’ magazine. Source: RIS Blog

“The extensive development path of consumer electronics, of their design, production and consumption, in our view, must remain in the past. The new slim, flexible, easily scalable consumer electronics system will stop the intervention in the home environment of all kinds of “boxes” — tape recorders, television sets, video recorders, players, radio sets, watches, phones, slide projectors — and later even personal computers, electronic games, and so on.

They are like the “faces” and “palms” of the entire system. Only large spherical speakers remain, in contrast, actively physical elements of the household, “illuminators of sound”, explains the magazine.

What do you think?

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