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What is your level of home automation?
I had the pleasure this weekend of visiting with Rich Thomson and Chris
Brown here in Salt Lake City. For me, it was truly a fun-filled weekend of
first-class geek techno-tourism.
Rich and I stayed up late Saturday night playing with Rich's 80's vintage
Evans and Sutherland ESV graphics workstation. The end-table-sized room
heater of a CPU would only boot after some judicious board reseating. Rich
showed off some intense fractal movies made even more psychedelic by the
80's "Synergy" music in the background. But the highlight of the trip was
our visit to the home of Brown family.
Neither Rich or I had seen Chris Brown since Delta days. I must confess
that we weren't sure what to expect since our last memories of Chris
included his notorious disregard for personal hygiene and severe caffeine
abuse. I'm pleased to report that today, Chris Brown is the master of a
surprisingly well disciplined and orderly family of six.
The key to this smooth running family environment is the state of the art
family phone system. During our visit, the phone system seemed to be in
constant use. All incoming calls were promptly answered by one of the staff
of full-time call screeners (Chris' three teenage daughters). Incoming
calls were normally followed by a page announced over the built-in speaker
of each of the feature-filled telephone instruments located throughout the
home: "Beep... Maia, it's for you!"
Obviously impressed, Rich and I demanded a tour of the PBX room in the
basement. In the back of the laundry room, there is a plywood-covered wall
teaming with punchdown blocks and digital telephone switching gear. In the
corner there is a small 8088 PC. In addition to the standard office phone
stuff, we were told of the systems many customized family friendly
My favorite had to be the wake-up call system. The 8088 PC uses homebrewed
floppy-based program and an old 2400-baud modem to place wake-up calls
according to a schedule that includes each family member. Since the calls
are internal to the system, the receiving phone automatically answers in
speaker mode, and the modem plays a loud alternating high-low touch-tone
alarm that continues until the handset is lifted and hung up again. I
forgot to ask if there is a snooze feature.
Another family oriented feature is the programming to restrict incoming
calls after 10 PM. Also, outgoing calls after 10 may only be made from
certain extensions. Of course, all incoming and outgoing calls are logged
on the PC. We were also told about some undocumented Orwelian capabilities.
Chris admitted that the system is not yet Y2K compliant.
Chris' family oriented automation doesn't stop with the phone system. Rich
and I got a demo of Chris' babysitter software. The program runs on and old
Mac 512, and is essentially a dead man switch for your babysitter. From
time to time, an alarm goes off and must be acknowledged by the babysitter.
Tasks that have been completed can be checked off on the screen. Chris
reports that his next project is going to use Basic Stamp modules with
thermocouples to better control the home's heating system.
So, I'm wondering, is this unprecedented? Or are there other stories of
Deltoid family home automation?