Imagine that your refrigerator can display its status on a display panel or your furnace can communicate with a digital thermostat. A possible next-step could be to let both share information with a central device — your home network computer.
Early desktop computers could perform meaningful work with several thousand bytes of memory and display results on simple monitors. Input and output were restricted to rows of characters, each of which was created from a matrix of illuminated or darkened dots (pixels) on the screen.
That has obviously changed. In the early 1970s, the first graphical user interface (GUI) was developed by the Xerox Corporation. In 1975, Paul Allen and Bill Gates created the first programming language written for a personal computer — BASIC. Gates and Allen called their first partnership “Micro-soft”, and Microsoft began in 1976. After a visit to Xerox in 1979, Steve Jobs introduced a GUI to his line of Apple computers.
For the next ten years, companies like Digital Research, Tandy Corporation, Commodore Business Machines, Atari, Cromemco, Texas Instruments, and IBM all worked to produce many hardware and software configurations. In 1985, Microsoft released its own GUI as Windows 1.0.
During the next twenty years, hardware, software, networking concepts, and expectations of the public encouraged the development of an ever better and more capable digital environment. Maturation of the Internet and ever-increasing levels of bandwidth have allowed theoretical visions to become daily realities.
The home networking industry grew from almost nothing in 1999 to a $2.4 billion market in the year 2003 and to $9.2 billion in 2006. Developments in digital technology have created opportunities in a number of previously isolated industries. These industries can now be expected to exploit their compatible features and move toward home network applications. Over 100 industries are, or soon will be, involved with home networking applications.
People’s dreams of automated homes are not new. How these homes would look has changed as society, scientific developments, and digital technology have evolved. So, the home networking industry is not new. It started in the 1950s when post-World War II enthusiasm turned peace-time technology and production toward new products for the home. When motion pictures of the 1950s and 1960s showed futuristic products, there were expectations that — somehow — automated homes would be the result of new ideas and new breakthroughs. How all this would be done was clearly not known.
Digital capabilities that we live with today are the result of this work. Many problems had to be overcome. Miniaturization, circuit integration, reliability, and affordability are just a few of the challenges that have brought us today’s digital circuits. New digital devices and protocols have allowed tasks to be done better and more efficiently. Here is a small sampling of these developments:
The growth of home networking goes beyond these accomplishments. We are on the threshold of new developments created when sophisticated technologies are applied to new applications for the first time. The manifestation of this joining is the home network market.
It is now possible to create simple home networks or very complex ones involving integrated, inter-connected groups of devices. Some are wireless networks that tie together a few PCs. Others are commercially manufactured panels capable of overseeing multifunctional home environments possessing great complexity.