In an era when VCRs were hugely successful and cell phones were little more than a distant object of desire, the last thing you'd expect to find inside an automobile was a touchscreen. But it was precisely this equipment one of the main strengths of the Buick Riviera.
But how did a touchscreen end up on a car dashboard in the 1980s?
We tell you the story.
It all started in November 1980 when Buick executives decided that before the decade was out they wanted to offer a model with the best possible technology.
At the same time, in a Delco Systems factory in California, a touch screen was being developed, in particular for its use in the automobile. Knowing Buick's intentions, Delco presented a prototype of the system in early 1981 to executives at GM (the owner of Buick) and the rest is history.
In 1983, the final specifications for the system were defined, and in 1984, GM installed the equipment in 100 units of the Buick Riviera, which were sent to the brand's dealers for public reactions to such innovative technology.
The reactions have been very positive. So positive that in 1986 the sixth generation Buick Riviera brought in this technology, which at the time seemed straight out of a sci-fi movie.
Called the Graphic Control Center (or "GCC" for short), the Buick Riviera 86's touchscreen (which was also paired with an all-digital instrument cluster) featured a nine-inch monochromatic cathode ray tube (CRT) touchscreen , which was similar to that of information kiosks, automated teller machines (ATMs) and other computerized devices of the time. The GCC performed many functions on the Riviera and was surrounded by six tactile "buttons" labeled Climate, Summary, Radio, Gauges, Diagnostic, and Trip Monitor. With a 32,000 word memory, it offered many functions that we can access on a modern screen starting with the Climate button, Riviera drivers could adjust typical HVAC control functions, such as fan speed, temperature, air conditioning (A / C) and defrosters for the front and rear windows. Touch Summary, and a simple screen appeared which allowed the driver to adjust some features of the audio system, air conditioning system, and also provided the current time and date. Pressing Radio brought up the audio system control screen, allowing the driver and passengers to tune in the radio station, toggle the audio system modes from A / M radio to F / M radio to the integrated cassette player, as well as adjusting the volume and audio (bass / treble / fader / balance) settings of the audio system. The Audio screen even had an on-screen "button" that opened the cassette player door (and quickly fast forward or rewind the tape being played). The Gauges screen displayed virtual analog "gauges". Touching Diagnostics allowed the driver to view diagnostic and warning messages, as well as adjust touchscreen settings (such as turning the audible "beep" on or off, for example). Finally, the Trip Monitor button brought up the integrated on-board computer, which allowed the driver to calculate the average fuel consumption (MPG), mileage traveled and time elapsed.
The system was so advanced at the time that there was even some kind of embryonic navigation system. It did not indicate the way, but if we indicated at the start of the trip the distance we were going to cover and the estimated travel time, the system would inform us along the way of the distance and the time remaining before reaching the destination.
The Graphic Control Center ("GCC") became standard equipment in the 1988 and 1989 Buick Reatta sports coupes, and was discontinued with the mid-cycle refresh of the Buick Reatta and Riviera for the 1990 model year. However, a smaller, colorful version of the GCC became available as an option on the 1990-1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo luxury coupe, and this version even piloted one of the first modern GPS navigation systems in a production vehicle. But perhaps the most interesting part about the touchscreen in General Motors (GM) vehicles of the 1980s and 1990s is the fact that most touchscreens are still in 100% working condition today. , and that's a good thing because you can't replace it with just any aftermarket radio as you will lose important vehicle functionality.