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  • You are at /projects/8BitE/

    8BitE 8 bit Ethernet Computer

    Back in the 1990's when Usenet was hot there was a group called comp.home.automation I used to read a lot. People had all kinds of stuff hooked up to be controlled via a computer and via the internet. Well one day I was reading about a guy Tim Shephard that said he had his sprinklers controlled but what should he work on next. One of the ideas was a irrigation controller. I was interested and thought I would try to make an internet controlled irrigation controller.

    Many of the ideas talked about relied on RS422 or X10 feed into a home controller box. I wanted a stand alone Ethernet device that didn't require a computer to be on. I already had 1000 feet of Cat 5 strung all over the house and a telecom room, plus I had broadband 24x7 internet with a static IP since 1996 so I was ready for remote internet control.


    So I went to the task of designing a Ethernet controller I could control my sprinklers and other stuff with. This board shown here is the fruits of my actions. I finished the prototype in Dec 1999. I got the drivers and software running for a first cut. Then I designed a solenoid switch based on MAC97A6 SCR's, I got the design from the guts of a store bought irrigation controller. I wired the SCR board to the I/O connector on the 8BitE and successfully could switch the 24VAC irrigation valves. I think got some control done using UDP and was working on a webserver control (only had on/off valve working) when I got to working full time on the TDK internet modem, this and a trip to the embedded conference kind of made me loose interest in the project.

    After I had most of this project worked out I was at the embedded internet confrence and there was there was a company called emWare that created a prototype lawn-sprinkler that was hooked up to the Internet. I talked to Chris Sontag and he gave me his line about his product and said "A homeowner at work can tell it to turn on, via the Web, and the sprinkler itself could automatically query the Web site of the National Weather Service to make sure the forecast doesn't call for rain." I was blown away that he already had a product that did everything I thought mine would do. I gave up since this was a "big" company, and my idea was just a prototype. Little did I know until later that emWare was mostly SlideWare and that this prototype was much better than anything they had developed.

    Ohh Well... Maybe the world wasn't ready for web-controlled sprinklers in Y2K anyway.

    Design Docs

  • Irrigation Controller - this design was copied by taking apart a commercial controller.
  • Commercial Irrigation Controller - I got the SCR controller circuit from.
  • schematic I think this was the last version.

    Related Links

  • Rapid Internet Device Development - Paper for a talk I gave at the Embedded Internet Conference in 2000 (EIC 2000 Conference).
  • Thesis on Connecting Devices



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