Our international scavenger hunt challenge: “VIDEO: Program a Commodore 64 (or similar vintage) personal computer to turn on a coffee maker and brew you a cup when you type in the command, ‘Rise and shine!'”
A couple of weeks ago, as aide-de-camp, I helped my wife Marty’s team with their attempt to win GISHWHES (the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen), on a challenge that if judged successful should net them 80 points — pretty substantial.
Marty and I made a regulation 30-second video to prove we had done it. The index card at the beginning reads (so you don’t have to freeze it):
THIS IS A TANDY 102 (LIKE A TRS-80 MODEL 100) VINTAGE 1986, CONTEMPORARY WITH THE COMMODORE 64. IT IS CONNECTED WIRELESSLY TO OUR COFFEE POT VIA AN X10 TRANSCEIVER AND SOFTWARE WRITTEN IN BASIC BY KEN PETTIT CIRCA 2007, SLIGHTLY MODIFIED BY RON HALE-EVANS.
WATCH THE LIGHT TURN ON!
We connected an X10 Firecracker controller to my computer’s serial port, and plugged the coffee pot (“Mr. Coffee” to you) into an X10 TM751 wireless transceiver, which actually switched on the pot. In between, there were various cables and thin air.
I already had the Tandy 102, but I’m not a home automation junkie, even though I had some of this X10 junk left over from the turn of the millennium, so there were false starts. At the last minute, I realized I had a female serial cable and needed a male one, so Marty had to schlep through Fry’s while I was at work to make it right. She later remarked, “Buying a male-to-male gender-changing connector isn’t as exciting as it sounds.”
We also had to buy a cheap coffeemaker that could be turned on by simply plugging it in; the one we normally use has an extra button you have to press. The first one we tried, from a thrift store, wouldn’t power up at all. Marty googled the model and found out it was the subject of a factory recall for electrical faults. Lucky us! She cursed and ordered Mr. Coffee from Amazon. The Mister really doesn’t do the fine Magic Beans roast justice, but he was just what we needed otherwise.
Ken Pettit’s FIRE.BA X10 software for the Model 100/102 was also just about right; I only had to add a single line of BASIC to comply with the contest requirements:
18 IF SELECT$ = “Rise and shine!” THEN SELECT$ = “A1N”
Translated into English, this means that if I type “Rise and shine!” at the prompt on my computer, as I do in the video, the computer should tell the X10 interface to turn device A1 (in this case, the coffeemaker) on.
Apart from the missteps, and a couple of hours of research to prove to myself it was possible to do what we wanted in the allotted week, most things were almost plug’n’play. The bulk of the week was spent waiting for serial cables to arrive from Amazon. We shot the video in one take, but Marty had to edit the length for GISHWHES because it takes more than 30 seconds to make coffee.
Shoutouts to the TRS-80 Model 100 mailing list for helping keep my 102 running, and the Seattle Retro-Computing Society for general retroawesomosity (I wish I could have been at the big four-club summit last week).
Now for some joe…
p.s. This Wondermark parody of MAKE magazine says it best: “How to do it terribly — expensively — and with great difficulty”.