Touchscreen infotainment systems are the all the rage these days.
For most drivers, the idea of a touchscreen that controls all of a car’s functions is sci-fi that only recently became reality.
However, in 1989 General Motors equipped its Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo with a touchscreen system that was decades ahead of its time. Called the Visual Information Center (VIC), the touchscreen gave the driver access to everything from the radio to engine management data.
This must have been mind blowing for drivers a quarter century ago. In a 1992 review, the Orlando Sentinel’s Richard Truett was astonished, writing “I have never seen this in a car.”
In 1990 video review of the Oldsmobile Trofeo by MotorWeek, the VIC’s glorious capabilities were on full display.
First, the $1,300 option controlled the car’s radio and optional CD player:
Then the reviewer adjusted the car’s climate control using the touchscreen:
The Visual Information Center gave the driver access to a slew of diagnostic information:
Amazingly the The VIC even had a “Navigation” function. Unfortunately, in the era before GPS, the screen only provides access…to a compass!
To top it all off, for another $999, buyers of the Trofeo could get an in-car telephone controlled through the VIC.
(For the record, GM shut down Oldsmobile in 2004.)
Incredibly, the colour touchscreen system found in the Olds wasn’t GM’s first. As far back as 1986, a more monochromatic unit could be found on the Buick Riviera.
The ’86 Riviera’s cathode ray tube (CRT) display features green text on a black background. According to MotorWeek it was powered a pair of 8-bit processors.
As wonderful as the Oldsmobile VIC and the Buick CRT were in their respective heydays, the systems’ reliability, user interface, and user-friendliness can’t compare to the infotainment units of today.
However, for hardware that’s at least 25 years old, the overall presentation and functionality is remarkable. Considering some of the dashboards in GM cars over the past two decades, we have to ask, “Where the heck was this awesome piece of tech all of these years?”
Click here to see the MotorWeek review of the Trofeo or see the full MotorWeek review of the 1986 Buick Riviera below.
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