By Mark Frauenfelder
THE JETSONS WAS AN ANIMATED PRIME-
time sitcom that debuted in 1962 as a time-warp twist on Hanna-Barbera’s previous hit,
The Flintstones. The Jetsons depicted family
life in the year 2062. One of the reasons I
loved the show was the futuristic technology
it featured in every episode.
The show’s end title sequence has an exemplary roundup of Jetsonian-age conveniences.
The scene opens with George Jetson gliding
home to the Sky Pad Apartments in Orbit City.
As George slides through the front door on a
moving sidewalk, Rosie, a robot housekeeper
dressed in a maid’s outfit, greets him and
takes his briefcase.
A second later, a molded fiberglass chair
springs out of a hidden door in the sliding walk
and smartly scoops George right out of his
white plastic boots. George falls into the chair,
nearly supine. He smiles and shuts his eyes.
The chair whisks George to his boy Elroy, who
slaps a pair of slippers on his father’s feet,
then onward to daughter Judy, who lovingly
puts a pipe in his mouth and kisses him on the
cheek before the chair conveys him away.
George's chair ride ends where Jane, his
wife, and the family dog, Astro, await him.
Jane gives him a kiss as she hands him Astro’s
leash, and the Goliath-sized dog bounds outside, dragging an alarmed George along.
The scene cuts to a conveyor treadmill
outside the apartment’s back door. George
is walking the dog when a cat hops onto the
belt. Astro gives chase and the belt spins out
of control, with George sprinting wildly to keep
up. The dog and cat hop off and enjoy the
spectacle of George, trapped on the belt, crying, “Help! Help! Jane, stop this crazy thing!”
In a way, the scene tells the same lesson
told in the movie WALL-E, in which people of
the future have ceded their body movement to
automation. They ride in floating scooters with
extra-large cup holders for the sugary drinks
they consume around the clock. The lesson is
that technology specifically designed to allow
you to sit and do nothing is not without consequences. (Does a TV remote control cater to
short attention spans, or create them?)
MAKE’s special section this issue is about
Home Automation, and we didn’t take the
subject sitting down. In fact, we went in the
opposite direction. Instead of a pushbutton
haven for couch potatoes, we imagined a networked space for active makers who want to
efficiently manage the systems in their homes
from anywhere they might find themselves —
whether they’re in the kitchen, out in the backyard, or on the other side of the planet.
New wireless protocols and cellphone-based interfaces make it easier than ever to
control your castle. We’ve got projects that
show you how to flip any switch in your home
from your mobile phone (page 66) or even
start your car (page 136), how to receive timely
verbal reminders to do household chores
(page 50), and how to program home systems
without writing a line of code (page 72). You’ll
learn how to set up a webcam security system
(page 44), give classic X10 automation modules a new brain (page 60), make an Arduino-controlled thermostat that’ll cut your energy
bill and take commands over the internet
(page 54), and more.
Other projects in this issue are sure to keep
you out of your chair, too, like the yakitori grill
(page 108), our new Supercap Racer toy kit
(page 126), and a radio-controlled flying wing
that’s easy to make and incredibly fun to fly
So, get automated and get active! ;
Mark Frauenfelder is editor-in-chief of MAKE.
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