|★ HARDWARE ★ PERIPHERIQUES CPC - AUTRES ★ GIS - RED BOXES ★|
|RED BOXES: GIS is a box|Amstrad Computer User)||RED BOXES|Amstrad Action)|
Networks don't have to be a thing of the future — thanks to GIS Red Boxes. Rupert Goodwins reads between the lines. A longstanding dream of many technically inclined computer buffs has been home control - using a micro to run electrical appliances around the house.
While it's possible to do this by connecting everything up to special wires and leading these to the micro, this is obviously messy, time-consuming and inconvenient. But it's also feasable to send the control signals down the network that every home's got wired-in already - the mains.
Now a system is available for a number of micros, including Amstrad CPCs, that can control almost anything via the mains. It's called Red Boxes, and it comes from the people (mostly Chris Curry) who brought you the Acorn System 1, and the Atom. And they had something to do with the BBC Micro as well, before leaving Acorn to form GIS.
Red Boxes, as bought, are, er, red boxes. For your £139 you get three very red boxes with mains leads (red) and plugs (red) hanging off them. They're called Red Leader, Red One and Red Two. The mind biggies.
In reverse order, Red Two is a motion detector. Plug it into a wall socket, and if it subsequentially detects movement in its vicinity it informs on the fact by sending a signal down the mains. Red One has a 13 amp socket (red) which it switches on and off on receipt of the appropriate mains-bom message. And then there's Red Leader.
The attached computer acts as a terminal for setting up and programming only. Red Leader couldn't care less what computer it is, and once it has
Setting up is really easy. Plug Red Two in in the area to be watched, plug Red One in between some appliance you want to remotely control (I used a cassette player for this review, playing a little Bach) and the mains, and plug Red Leader into your Amstrad with the lead supplied.
The control program displays a list of red boxes currently plugged into your system, whether they're on or off, what time they're set to go off (or on) at, and how long for. It also allows you to set Red Leader's internal clock, turn anything on or off, and also to link devices together (so the hall light always comes on when the hall people detector detects people).
All this is accomplished by simple single key command selection and typing in numbers where necessary. When you've finished sorting out the times for everything you can leave Red Leader to get on with it and unplug your computer.
But if you're really keen, and want to go to town on your house, there's Red Basic. Selecting Quit from the Red Control Program leaves you with a 1 prompt. From this you can write programs to suit your exact needs.
Red Basic is a bit like BBC Basic (funny, that), but with Amstrad-style EVERY commands to do repetitive functions. It can also react to messages coming in by a WHEN command, and commands the rest of the squadron by TELL. So a typical program to blast burglars with a bit of Bach is
10 WHEN 'ALARM* GOSUB BRANDEN:CONTINUE
Devices can be referenced by the name you give them, or the number between 0 and 9 Red Basic gives them when they're installed.
Programs can be saved to cassette or disc once finished, and in this and most other respects Red Basic has been well designed for the tasks it's likely to be put to. It's a bit tricky linking it to any of your computer's other functions, though. I tried to get my modem and Red Leader to work together (phone home and set the video...), but no dice.
Well read And now the documentation paragraph. Not a lot to say about the 50 page booklet, except that it's red and seems to cover everything with a fair amount of detail.
Bottom line time. Red Boxes appear to be a very good answer to the question "But what can you use a computer for". Once the gimmicky fun of using Arnold to turn on Sue Ellen has gone, the home security aspects are probably the most impressive, and likely to make Red leader pay its way.
Amstrad User February 1987
CPCrulez[Content Management System]
L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.