Nothing comes from nothing
Oldies but Goodies

SAGE Home Control System

In 1985, I developed a microprocessor controller under contract for an industrial instrument manufacturer. I had recently moved into a new home and decided that a derivative of this design, with greatly expanded I/O capacity, would be ideal as the foundation for a centralized Home Automation (HA) system.

At the time, HA was an emerging concept and I felt that building and installing a custom system in my house would be a good weekend project (though it quickly extended over MANY weekends).

Designated "SAGE" (a pet name I've used for various other projects), I designed a single board computer (SBC) based on the Hitachi HD6303 processor and added a large number of peripheral devices to monitor and control a variety of functions.

Ultimately, the SAGE HA project took about 2 years to install, largely due to an evolving software platform and a huge amount of hard-wiring throughout the house. Since then, the system has been updated and expanded to include many features which are locally and remotely controlled:

• Passive IR sensors in all living spaces to detect occupied rooms
• Fully automatic control of all lighting in the house based on occupancy
• Multiple-zone, "learning" security system based on occupant's lifestyle
• Programmable wake-up alarms, alerts, and environmental lighting
• Programmable mulitple-zone irrigation systems with rain sensors
• Voice synthesized status messaging through a whole house intercom
• Voice command and control of lighting, HVAC, and media components
• Two weather stations with 5 and 20 year archives
• 24-hour monitoring of electricity usage and HVAC efficiency
• CCTV/DVRs linked to touchscreen LCDs and TVs in the house
• Built-in digital seismograph, RFIDs, and water leak sensors
• LAN, smartphone, and Internet access to all HA features and CCTVs
• Dual fault-tolerant hardware, fully solid state core controller (no HDDs)
• Core software is 100% assembly code for speed and efficiency
• Triple redundant power supply with UPS, on-board lithium batteries

The SAGE core SBC has been running continuously for 30 years (as of 2015) and experienced only a single minor component failure (a video processor chip) in all that time. Due to the failsafe design of the hardware and software, the system has never crashed nor been offline.


SAGE monitor station
One of the SAGE access stations with the original
(legacy) control panel (top) above a touchscreen LCD
showing floorplan, CCTVs, and other daily info.
Occupied rooms and active lighting are
continuously monitored and controlled.

SAGE Network Access
Remote access to lighting control
on a network connected tablet

SAGE Power Use
Energy usage summary via
integrated TED power monitor

SAGE Temp Graphs
Indoor/Outdoor temperature
graphs - weekly and annual
VIDEO: Demo of early voice control features (2013)

Much has changed since this original video was made and I hope to have an updated demo made this year.
Voice control has been greatly expanded to include lighting scenes, thermostats, media components, door locks, and more.
Several centrally located Amazon Echos allow hands-free voice commands in most rooms,
and response times are faster due to improvements in hardware since 2013.


Bored during a first-year college class, I began scribbling notes with a quickly conjured set of unique graphemes and phonemes. The result was a written language I called "Anabic".

Sadly, the class didn't get more interesting over the semester, so I ended up filling several notebooks with everything from daily journal notes and poems to conceptual thoughts and daydreams.

Anabic note
Page from a collection of poems written in Anabic (1972)

During my earliest days writing code for microprocessors (way back in the 70's), I developed a preference for the Motorola family of devices. So when their 68000 processor became available in 1980, I wanted to be first in line to design a single board computer using their new 16/32 bit device.

I eventually designed two versions of the "IRIS" computer, both using the 68000 but with different amounts of RAM and I/O peripherals. Version 2 was quite fast for the time, executing an Eratosthenes Sieve to extract the first 50000 primes in just seconds.

Iris Detail
Processor and DRAM controller section of IRIS-16 (1980)

Ternary Logic TLU (Neural Nets)

The "holy grail" in computer science is the refinement of artificial intelligence (AI). Until very recently, developments in machine intelligence have mostly been modest and primarily limited to software techniques.

Back in the late 70's, I drafted a theory combining a hardware neuron simulacrum (the TLU or Threshold Logic Unit) with work on ternary logic I had done earlier. Time constraints prevented me and a colleague from building a prototype, but we did run software simulations with promising results. Today, neural nets are making a resurgence in machine learning and AI is back in the news.

Logic Diagram
Flow diagram for a Ternary TLU Simulation (1977)