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Preface > Introduction

P3.1. Introduction

Difficult as it may be to believe, there was actually a time when only a handful of people had computers in their homes. For those of us who got on the bandwagon early, finding a use for such an expensive appliance was a challenge. Some people used their computers to run spreadsheet applications like Lotus 1 2 3. Others, like us, found that just playing around and exploring how they functioned was justification enough. And no one wanted to admit they played games on their computers; it was nearly shameful.

How times have changed. Today, personal computers are considerably more affordable, and nearly one in every four homes has at least one. More than a third of those homes have broadband Internet access. In the old days—when computing resources were enormously expensive—an idle CPU was money wasted. Today, processing power is cheap, and we've got cycles to burn.

Personal computers can enhance your life at home in ways you may not have thought of. For example, your PC can be the nerve center of an advanced environmental control system, monitoring occupancy and adjusting lighting and temperature according to your preferences. Improved multimedia capabilities allow personal computers to play a central role in home entertainment. Combining data acquisition with the general-purpose nature of computers enables your home and computer to work together to keep you comfortable and safe. "Home computing" takes on a new meaning.

The "home of the future" is here today, and the computer plays a pivotal role in making it a reality. With a few off-the-shelf devices, some homemade hardware, and a little imagination, you can be living in your own high-tech habitat. And you can say you did it yourself!

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