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  • Greetings, and welcome to LGR Oddware, where we're taking a look at hardware and software

  • that is odd, forgotten, and obsolete,

  • and today, that is the X10 Power House: "Control your home with your IBM PC."

  • Yeah that's right, this is home automation, 1980's style.

  • This selection of components and software is supposed to let you use your MS-DOS based computer

  • and turn it into a control center for all sorts of devices around your house.

  • Most notably, lights, in the case of this particular set of stuff.

  • But, it's not gonna stop there: we're going to go also to the 90's

  • With this HAL 2000 Home Automated Living... thing.

  • Which is a... it's like the same idea as the X10 -- in fact, it uses some of the X10 hardware,

  • but the software is voice controlled, and is sort of an AI assistant for your home.

  • Yeah does that sound familiar? Well, they were doing this in the 90's, so Google Home and Alexa,

  • you can eat your heart out, because we're going back in time to do home automation, oddware style.

  • Let's take a look at the X10.

  • So this is the X10 Powerhouse: "#1 in home control," for your IBM PC.

  • Well, this is just one of many X10 products, though.

  • These were actually introduced in 1975 by Pico Electronics,

  • of Glenrothes, Scotland.

  • And before the X10, they were making single-chip calculator processing units,

  • in conjunction with General Instrument,

  • powering machines such as the Royal Digital 3.

  • And, actually, they do make the claim of this being the very first microprocessor,

  • but, myeh, that is VERY much debatable, and is perhaps a topic for another video or two in the future,

  • but, on to the X10 though, which was so named for being their 10th project,

  • after 8 integrated circuit projects like those for General Instrument,

  • and the 9th being the Accutrac 4000 remote controlled turntable.

  • And so, it's just a logical progression from "Hey, we can do remote controlled programmable turntables,"

  • "So why not just control and program everything else in the house?"

  • and so the X10 was born.

  • And it originally used power line communication:

  • not radio controlled, not infrared, no; actually communicating between devices,

  • using only your home power lines.

  • And this sent a 120 kilohertz carrier signal burst,

  • over the wires of your house.

  • So this not only relied on the wiring in your house being up to snuff in order to work properly,

  • but, it also meant it could spread to nearby homes

  • or apartments if both of you had an X10 and you happened to be on the same shared electrical system.

  • Even if you set the house and module code on the device,

  • there was no encryption there, so shenanigans could definitely be had,

  • and you could mess with your neighbors through a remote controlled device,

  • which is pretty great. I imagine that would have been some fun in the 70's -- heck could be fun now, what am I saying.

  • But yeah, this initially cost around $50

  • for a control center, similar to this one here,

  • and $20 per module. And these different modules, like the LM465 here for lamps,

  • would plug into different devices of different power requirements,

  • and then connect through the power lines to the main Control Center Module.

  • And it's worth noting that these weren't just sold as the X10 Powerhouse. They were also sold as the

  • Plug'n Power Home Automation System through RadioShack starting in 1979?

  • But this is a much later model of course, but yes, the same basic idea anyway.

  • The computer interfaces though actually started showing up in 1983

  • for the ill-fated Mattel Aquarius. [giggles] That didn't last long.

  • The Aquarius was killed, and then of course the project was killed. So, there were other ones being developed for other computers instead.

  • RadioShack had one going for the TRS-80 color computer of course,

  • And then it was shortly followed up for other computer systems like the Apple II, the Commodore 64, MS-DOS-based PCs, et cetera.

  • And in case you're curious, X10 is actually still around, making home automation stuff today with the cheaper ones being very similar to the old-school devices we'll be looking at here.

  • And of course, newer ones that work with smartphones and all that kind of Wi-Fi nonsense that

  • absolutely everyone is doing and is honestly a little bit boring at this point.

  • That's why we'll be taking a look at the old school versions like this one, because I think that it is far more interesting and unusual

  • Oddware type of thing. A viewer named Kenneth from Texas actually sent me this, along with some of the other Powerhouse devices

  • we'll be looking at here. And this right here is an original receipt for an X10 Powerhouse IBM PC computer kit like we'll be looking at here at a moment,

  • and you can actually see that it is $19.90 in 1986, when this was bought.

  • Granted, this is only for the main unit for serial connections,

  • and it doesn't actually come with the modules to plug in your lamps and whatnot. Speaking of those modules,

  • you can see right there the - some of the different ones that you could get for this.

  • Appliances, lamps, a mini controller, so you don't have to plug it into your PC necessarily,

  • and then a wall switch module for controlling your light switches.

  • This particular model, the CP290, can be "left connected to the computer for instantaneous control of up to 256 differently coded [laughs] X10 modules.

  • But, in either case, does not tie the computer up.

  • It's like having software which runs in the "background"".

  • Well, let's just open this up, I'm very curious what's inside.

  • Mmm...

  • Well, there we have a cable and, uh... we got some really nastiness. That's...

  • a lot more gross than I thought it would be.

  • And let's see. We have some software. A Powerhouse SC IBM version 1.0.

  • All right, we have it on a 360K disk here.

  • "Why four manuals?"

  • Yes. Why four art thou manuals?

  • This nasty thing, I've got to clean this up before we do anything else.

  • Ugh. It feels like old cheese, and cigarettes.

  • Uegh.

  • Now we have a relatively clean X10 Powerhouse Computer Interface, and yeah.

  • so it looks like we have some toggle switches here for on and off.

  • Um... [presses switches]

  • They're not very satisfying switches.

  • Oh. And we have a battery here, looks like a 9-volt. I have this right here that plugs into this.

  • And then this plugs into...

  • I have no idea.

  • Well, it turns out that cable was completely wrong for the IBM PC, it was for the Commodore 64,

  • which is why it had an edge connector and not the 9-pin serial adapter, which will connect to the RS-232 of the IBM PC AT here that I'm gonna be trying it on.

  • Now this is going to plug into... the X10 Powerhouse right here.

  • Oh yeah, and I need a 9-volt battery to go in there.

  • All right, that little red LED on there is flashing.

  • Don't know if you can see that, but it is. So I guess that means it has power.

  • And I'm assuming this plug for the wall is what is gonna make it adapt to the different wall adapters, or modules I guess, like this Lamp Module.

  • I have a few of these that are still sealed because they're really easy to find it turns out.

  • Smells weird.

  • See right there, those dials on the front? Those are the settings for this individual unit which says this is number one unit on my personal X10 network,

  • and then that "House" is set to house A, and that is kinda what I mentioned earlier

  • as far as you'd be able to control your neighbor's X10 if you were on the same grid or whaterver, but, uh, I'm in a house, I don't have neighbors,

  • so I'm not gonna be able to test that but I am going to just see if this works as it's supposed to in my own house here.

  • So I have a nice little lamp right here

  • It has already turned on I'm just not plugged into anything obviously and then we're just gonna plug it into

  • The bottom of the x10 power house lamp module, and yes, this does only go up to 300 watts

  • And then we'll just plug it into the outlet over here

  • And I'm assuming it's just not gonna do anything since we don't actually have the x10

  • Did that just flash, okay, it's flashing

  • What can I say, I don't actually have the x10 power house computer interface plugged into anything but umm...

  • That's weird unplug it for now. I don't know what the heck that's about that's

  • Unusual okay

  • Okay got that plugged into the computer, and then we'll get the computer interface plugged into the wall

  • And I guess I'm gonna plug the lamp back in now cuz you know

  • Okay well pressing the button manually works, but in the meantime. It's flashing

  • Yeah

  • I was not expecting the ghetto strobe light effect

  • That's for sure

  • Okay, it's time for the powerhouse software, and I hope this disk works. I have not tested this at all oh

  • Good an error the interface contains. No data write-protect error writing drive a well it did have the

  • little thingy on there the little write-protect piece of tape okay, I'm just gonna copy everything over to a

  • directory here

  • Yeah, well run it this way

  • The interface contains no data ah okay, whatever can enter the time

  • 4:16 p.m.

  • Monday

  • No don't want to change that all right

  • Uploading x10 data. All right selecting on allows you to turn the selected. Yeah, I don't know

  • That code is a 1 all right. Let's try

  • Turning it on oh

  • Whoa check this out

  • Turning it off. Now. Oh, that's really cool turn it on now

  • Yeah, let's see if we can dim

  • Dim it to 50% now

  • Okay well that's interesting

  • Put that back

  • Turned off it hurts

  • That might be because I have an LED bulb in there and it might not just no let me see if I have an incandescent

  • Check it out. I do. I hope it's still

  • like

  • valid

  • So this one doesn't seem to be flashing

  • I'm assuming that flashing weirdness was just because it was an LED

  • Which obviously didn't exist when the software and hardware was made all right? Well, let's see. Yeah, it just turns it on and then

  • Turns it off

  • It doesn't seem to be dimming it either

  • Maybe that's just because of the type of lamp oh no no it is dimming

  • Dude

  • Incandescent is the key?

  • Put it back up

  • Oh

  • That's really

  • That's so cool

  • my IBM is controlling my house through the power lines and serial cables and connections and

  • Wow, dude. This is pretty awesome. So yeah, you can definitely

  • choose

  • When these things are gonna do

  • their thing and the idea is that you don't have to have those software on to have it do its thing like

  • Let's say, and I'm gonna have it come on at

  • 427 and so I have I've programmed it to do that in

  • 427 it should come on by itself even if the software isn't going because it's supposed to send like a signal to the Box

  • All right

  • Software is not on we're gonna wait till 427 to see if it does its thing and I should be friggin awesome if it does

  • Ohh I did it! Ohh it did it!

  • And so I should be able to control yeah, can control it manually using the box

  • that is