X10

I became interested in home automation after I installed an alarm system in my home. The system had some X10 features, which enabled the control of lights in my house. Soon I discovered that communication over the power line network had it’s limitations and that the commercial available units were expensive and had serious shortcomings in terms of reliable operation. Minimum loads were required, dimming did not go smooth and the position of the units in a network determined if the unit was able to receive commands or not. I decided to see if I could build a unit myself!

My first X10 unit

Browsing the web, I found (only) 1 publication of a home designed and build X10 unit. See this link.
I have used this design as a guideline. To be able to program the Microchip PIC processor (16F84), I first had to build a programmer. I found the JVM programmer (not available anymore) and the ICProg Program. To be able to change the PIC program, I downloaded the MPLAB software from Microchip.
One of the first things I wanted to automate were the vertical blinds. During absence (holidays) I wanted the blinds to open and close automatically. Here is a picture of the X10 Blind Controller.

Home Control software

The last basic part was the home automation software. I found the Zeus program very attractive at that time as it had some features which enabled hardware testing (serial port monitor, X10 toolset to transmit commands). I still owe a lot of thanks to Tom Cox, the designer of Zeus.

During the years that followed, I designed complete new X10 hardware. Using PIC controllers I created all kinds of functions: bright/dim units, relay on/off units, sensors, button input controller etc. Most of them are still operational in my house. On the X10 project pages, you can find detailed information.

Zigbee

Though the simplicity of the protocol has made and still makes the use of X10 units easy and affordable for many hobbyist, new technologies have important advantages over the 25 year old technology. A more reliable communication can be achieved, faster data exchange is possible, lower power units can be build and much more functions are defined. A couple of years ago I decided to focus on the Zigbee protocol. You can find more detailed information on the Zigbee Project pages.

Holborn Computers

Holborn Computers was a Dutch company which I used to work for 35 years ago. The company has build the first Dutch computers, based om microprocessor technology. I'm the proud owner of one of the few systems that still exist (and its working!)

Though it has nothing to do with my Home Automation projects, I have added a page about Holborn Computers.