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Author_Portrait_Mark_FrauenfelderThe Jetsons was an animated prime-time sitcom that debuted in 1962 as a time-warp twist on Hanna-Barbera’s previous hit, The Flintstones. The Jetsons depicted family life in the year 2062. One of the reasons I loved the show was the futuristic technology it featured in every episode.

The show’s end title sequence has an exemplary roundup of Jetsonian-age conveniences. The scene opens with George Jetson gliding home to the Sky Pad Apartments in Orbit City. As George slides through the front door on a moving sidewalk, Rosie, a robot housekeeper dressed in a maid’s outfit, greets him and takes his briefcase.

A second later, a molded fiberglass chair springs out of a hidden door in the sliding walk and smartly scoops George right out of his white plastic boots. George falls into the chair, nearly supine. He smiles and shuts his eyes. The chair whisks George to his boy Elroy, who slaps a pair of slippers on his father’s feet, then onward to daughter Judy, who lovingly puts a pipe in his mouth and kisses him on the cheek before the chair conveys him away.

George’s chair ride ends where Jane, his wife, and the family dog, Astro, await him. Jane gives him a kiss as she hands him Astro’s leash, and the Goliath-sized dog bounds outside, dragging an alarmed George along.

The scene cuts to a conveyor treadmill outside the apartment’s back door. George is walking the dog when a cat hops onto the belt. Astro gives chase and the belt spins out of control, with George sprinting wildly to keep up. The dog and cat hop off and enjoy the spectacle of George, trapped on the belt, crying, “Help! Help! Jane, stop this crazy thing!”

In a way, the scene tells the same lesson told in the movie WALL-E, in which people of the future have ceded their body movement to automation. They ride in floating scooters with extra-large cup holders for the sugary drinks they consume around the clock. The lesson is that technology specifically designed to allow you to sit and do nothing is not without consequences. (Does a TV remote control cater to short attention spans, or create them?)

MAKE’s special section this issue is about Home Automation, and we didn’t take the subject sitting down. In fact, we went in the opposite direction. Instead of a pushbutton haven for couch potatoes, we imagined a networked space for active makers who want to efficiently manage the systems in their homes from anywhere they might find themselves — whether they’re in the kitchen, out in the backyard, or on the other side of the planet.

New wireless protocols and cellphone-based interfaces make it easier than ever to control your castle. We’ve got projects that show you how to flip any switch in your home from your mobile phone (page 66) or even start your car (page 136), how to receive timely verbal reminders to do household chores (page 50), and how to program home systems without writing a line of code (page 72). You’ll learn how to set up a webcam security system (page 44), give classic X10 automation modules a new brain (page 60), make an Arduino-controlled thermostat that’ll cut your energy bill and take commands over the internet (page 54), and more.

Other projects in this issue are sure to keep you out of your chair, too, like the yakitori grill (page 108), our new Supercap Racer toy kit (page 126), and a radio-controlled flying wing that’s easy to make and incredibly fun to fly (page 82).

So, get automated and get active!

Mark Frauenfelder

Mark Frauenfelder is the editor-in-chief of Make magazine, and the founder of the popular Boing Boing blog.


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