The Diary of a Mad Digital Homeowner:
Nov 28, 1995:
Moved in to my new digitally-maxed out Hermosa Beach house at last.
Finally, we live in the smartest house in the neighborhood.
Everything's networked. The cable TV is connected to our phone, which
is connected to my personal computer, which is connected to the power
lines, all the appliances and the security system. Everything runs
off a universal remote with the friendliest interface I've ever used.
Programming is a snap. I'm like, totally wired.
Hot Stuff! Programmed my VCR from the office, turned up the
thermostat and switched on the lights with the car phone, remotely
tweaked the oven a few degrees for my pizza. Everything nice & cozy
when I arrived. Maybe I should get the universal remote surgically
Had to call the SmartHouse people today about bandwidth
problems. The TV drops to about 2 frames/second when I'm talking on
the phone. They insist it's a problem with the cable company's
compression algorithms. How do they expect me to order things from
the Home Shopping Channel?
Got my first SmartHouse invoice today and was unpleasantly
surprised. I suspect the cleaning woman of reading Usenet from the
washing machine interface when I'm not here. She must be downloading
one hell of a lot of GIFs from the binary groups, because packet
charges were through the roof on the invoice.
Yesterday, the kitchen CRASHED. Freak event. As I opened the
refrigerator door, the light bulb blew. Immediately, everything else
electrical shut down -- lights, microwave, coffee maker -- everything.
Carefully unplugged and replugged all the appliances. Nothing.
Call the cable company (but not from the kitchen phone). They refer
me to the utility. The utility insists that the problem is in the
software. So the software company runs some remote telediagnostics
via my house processor. Their expert system claims it has to be the
utility's fault. I don't care, I just want my kitchen back. More
phone calls; more remote diag's.
Turns out the problem was "unanticipated failure mode": The network
had never seen a refrigerator bulb failure while the door was open.
So the fuzzy logic interpreted the burnout as a power surge and shut
down the entire kitchen. But because sensor memory confirmed that
there hadn't actually been a power surge, the kitchen logic sequence
was confused and it couldn't do a standard restart. The utility guy
swears this was the first time this has ever happened. Rebooting the
kitchen took over an hour.
The police are not happy. Our house keeps calling them for
help. We discover that whenever we play the TV or stereo above 25
decibels, it creates patterns of micro-vibrations that get amplified
when they hit the window. When these vibrations mix with a gust of
wind, the security sensors are actuated, and the police computer
concludes that someone is trying to break in. Go figure.
Another glitch: Whenever the basement is in self-diagnostic mode, the
universal remote won't let me change the channels on my TV. That
means I actually have to get up off the couch and change the channels
by hand. The software and the utility people say this flaw will be
fixed in the next upgrade -- SmartHouse 2.1. But it's not ready yet.
Finally, I'm starting to suspect that the microwave is secretly tuning
into the cable system to watch Bay Watch. The unit is completely
inoperable during that same hour. I guess I can live with that. At
least the blender is not tuning in to old I Love Lucy episodes.
I just bought the new Microsoft Home. Took 93 gigabytes of
storage, but it will be worth it, I think. The house should be much
easier to use and should really do everything. I had to sign a second
mortgage over to Microsoft, but I don't mind: I don't really own my
house now--it's really the bank. Let them deal with Microsoft.
I'm beginning to have doubts about Microsoft House. I keep
getting an hour glass symbol showing up when I want to run the
This is a nightmare. There's a virus in the house. My
personal computer caught it while browsing on the public access
network. I come home and the living room is a sauna, the bedroom
windows are covered with ice, the refrigerator has defrosted, the
washing machine has flooded the basement, the garage door is cycle up
and down and the TV is stuck on the home shopping channel. Through-
out the house, lights flicker like stroboscopes until they explode
from the strain. Broken glass is everywhere. Of course, the security
sensors detect nothing.
I look at a message slowly throbing on my personal computer screen:
WELCOME TO HomeWrecker!!! NOW THE FUN BEGINS ... (Be it ever so
humble, there's no virus like the HomeWrecker...).
They think they've digitally disinfected the house, but the
place is a shambles. Pipes have burst and we're not completely sure
we've got the part of the virus that attacks toilets. Nevertheless,
the Exorcists (as the anti-virus SWAT team members like to call
themselves) are confident the worst is over. "HomeWrecker is pretty
bad" one he tells me, "but consider yourself lucky you didn't get
PolterGeist. That one is really evil."
I get a call from a SmartHouse sales rep. As a special
holiday offer, we get the free opportunity to become a beta site for
the company's new SmartHouse 2.1 upgrade. He says I'll be able to
meet the programmers personally. "Sure," I tell him.