What do we mean by "automation"? What is the simplest example we can find? A wind up toy? Wikipedia defines it thus: "Automation is the technology by which a process or procedure is performed without human assistance." Let's see how much automation we can find within a small radius of where we are at the moment.
Lights that turn off if no one is moving.
Alarm clocks
Door that locks by default

Now, in each case, let's examine what automation means. One way to get at this is to ask how the task would be performed by "hand."

Thermostat: if it gets too warm, go turn the heater off; if it gets too cold, turn the heater on.
Lights: turn off the switch when you leave, turn it on when you arrive
Alarm clocks: keep an eye on the the clock and remember what time you want to do something

Food for thought: we don't mean the same thing by "automation" and "machine" - how would you distinguish them?

One way to think about automation is to describe the states that the device can be in, the events it can perceive or the commands it can receive and the state to which it moves and the actions it might take when it does on a given "input."

Consider the device shown to the right.


Here's what the product description says: "Cuisinart introduces a fully programmable coffeemaker with a burr grinder for superior coffee. …. the strength selector and the grind control functions fine-tune the intensity and volume of your coffee. It's never been easier to make a great pot of coffee!

  • Burr grinder automatically grinds beans before brewing
  • Strength selector - choose coffee strength: strong, medium or mild
  • Grind control - program the amount of coffee you want to grind: choose from 2 to 12 cups
  • 24-hour fully programmable 12-cup (5-oz. each) capacity
  • Brew Pause feature lets you enjoy a cup before brewing is finished
  • Adjustable auto-shutoff (0-4 hours)
  • Grind-off feature
  • 2 to 4 cup feature integrated into unit