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What year did they first put computers in cars?


What year did they first put computers in cars? What year automakers start putting computer controllers in cars? What kind of cars first have engine control unit (ECU) in automobile world? When the first gasoline-powered car introduced by Karl Benz in 1886, everything is dynamically controlled by mechanical and no computers were involved in any cars.

Almost all the cars before ‘80s run base on mechanical and pneumatic means. This has made all automobile a little simple and beautiful. In 1980s, ECU was introduced. However, there is only a small amount of cars in the ‘80s fitted with ECU. Things went a little more complicated in the ‘90s when ECU has become more common. The main function of ECU is to control the fuel mixture, ignition timing, idle speed, variable valve timing, as well as electronic valve control. Some programmable ECU is able to define the maximum RPM allowed in one engine to avoid engine over rev as well as many other things to make a car engine runs better.

Things changed from the simple mechanism to complicated computer system. The early ECU in the ‘80s pre-computed all the output values and stored the memory in a chipset. However, when a car engine wears, the system is unable to re-adjust the value because the memory stored is optimal for new engine. Unlike today’s ECU, it uses microprocessor to process the inputs from a sensors fitted to the car engine in real time. This type of ECU is available at most of the new car today.

ECU played an important part in making a car run smooth and get high mileage. It has become a common technology in the millennium year. Many old mechanics can easily fix cars made before the ‘90s without ECU. However, it requires computer knowledge or a special computer equipment to repair or to re-program the ECU on newer cars today. ECU is just like a small computer in cars, if it stops function, the car may not run. Therefore, it is important to protect the ECU from water if flood comes.


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