[ih] Early IoT: anyone remember The Internet Toaster and Crane? :D

Karl Auerbach karl at cavebear.com
Thu Jul 9 00:36:46 PDT 2020

The original *two* internet toasters were by John Romkey and Simon 
Hacket.  We showed them at the Interop show in San Jose - I think 1989.

(Both of 'em used my/Epilogue SNMP agent code for control, and I had a 
hand in the code of both of 'em.)

John built his, I think, at his house in Belmont, California. Simon and 
I were in the TGV carriage house in Santa Cruz when he wasn't in Adelaide.

Both used Sunbeam "Radiant" toasters.  These had the property that they 
would lower the bread into the slots when the power was turned on and 
raise the toasted bread slices when the power was turned off.

I can't remember much of Simon's implementation.  I vaguely remember 
that it was on a Motorola 68xxx board.

John's was in a laptop that had had the case split open and some wires 
dragged out to a scary looking relay that turned the power to the 
toaster on/off.  I'm not sure what John hooked into to drive the relay.

The toaster MIB had items about the type of bread, one-or-two slices, 
desired browning, etc.  (We had fun calibrating the the toaster - the 
MIB accommodated everything from pop-tarts to real bread to the bread we 
used at the Interop shows - Wonder Bread - because it is extremely 
consistent, and cheap.)

The code took the MIB inputs and turned that into a power-on signal to 
the relay and then, after the appropriate time, a power-off.

We had it all running on the show floor.  But once the crowds came in we 
discovered something: We forgot to bring bread.  We had one slice.  So 
we toasted it over and over and over again on the lowest setting.

That was until Ole J. tried to put some butter onto our hyper-dry and 
brittle toast slice and it shattered.

In subsequent Interop shows we elaborated on the concept in various 
ways.  The toaster remained - but Peter de Vris of FTP Software built a 
leggo crane, also SNMP controlled, to put the bread into the toaster and 
remove it.

We also had a talking bear/weather station, Simon's amazing 100disk SNMP 
controlled juke box and stereo amplifier, a toy railroad....

It was also during that time that Simon put together the first 
Ether-Phones.   These definitely post-dated the SRI voice-over-the net 
stuff.  Simon's was cool in that it was all stuffed into a couple of 
telephone looking things.

A couple of years back John Romkey mentioned that he still had his 
Internet Toaster, but it was only a toaster; the control stuff had all 
vanished the great /dev/null.


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