Sometime in the mid-nineties I was thrift shopping in San Diego with my friend Niklas Vollmer. I can still remember the moment we stumbled on the Energy-Environment Simulator. We couldn’t stop laughing and we realized that we had to buy it. How often do you run into an Energy-Environment Simulator in working condition? It’s been the centerpiece of Nik’s living room ever since, even making a cross country move.
The device demonstrates energy inputs and demands. Depending on how you turn the knobs, you can either engineer a future of never-ending power or, on the other extreme, your own personal zombie apocalypse. One of the energy sources is labeled “new technology.” This could either be solar or that UFO doughnut from the Thrive movie.
The only info we have on it is that it was manufactured by Tenntronics, a defunct company that was in business from the late 1960s through the late 1980s. It came with a handsome storage cabinet that also serves as a pedestal.
I’m guessing that the Energy-Environment Simulator is a relic of the 1970s oil crisis and I respect its creator’s attempt to demonstrate the interlocking feedback loops of systems theory in the pre-personal computer era.
Since we all didn’t learn the lesson back in the 1970s, perhaps it’s time to take the Energy-Environment Simulator on the road. Coachella and Burning Man here we come.
If you have any info on this thing or remember seeing one in action, please leave a comment.
Update: Reader Maribeth found the patent for the Energy-Environment Simulator, dated October 8, 1974. From the patent description:
Each participant makes policy decisions to adjust energy demands and energy source allocations and observes, in compressed time, the consequences of their decisions. The time element is adjustable by means of a variable system clock, typically one simulated century passes each minute. The natural energy reserves are simulated in an analog computer circuit and the rate of depletion may be regulated according to well-established data as to quantities and the foretasted rate of depletion. . . . The participants operate the simulator as a game where the objective is to see how long one can keep the society powered adequately without excessively polluting the environment and without exhausting all of the energy reserves.
Here’s the kicker:
The present invention was made during the course of, or under, a contract with the United States Energy Commission.
I have a feeling the game is rigged–I bet you have to crank that nuclear knob in order to keep the lights on.