Hack the House! home controller

Control home automation equipment with this sick '90s beeper.

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Notice how you always unplugging your phone from something to control your home? Just the other day I had to walk back downstairs and get my phone off the charger to turn off lights. With this convenient controller with an intuitive neo-retro interface you can run your entire house without needing your phone.

The precise model of pager is the Motorola Advisor, which has the dimensions of 81mm by 55mm by 18.5mm thick.

This guy researched building a replica:

It essentially consists of a yes button, a no button, and a four-directional toggle that lets users sift through a lot of separate pieces of information. Perfect for our use! 


I'm working up the design in Illustrator. Priority #1: Make it work and be useful. Priority #2: Have it closely resemble a real Motorola Advisor pager.

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) - 56.10 kB - 05/01/2019 at 15:09



This is the spec sheet for the Adafruit display I'm considering using:

Adobe Portable Document Format - 330.68 kB - 05/01/2019 at 14:23


  • 1 × RBG Backlit Negative LCD: This display looks very similar in size to the original, though much cooler!
  • 1 × Adafruit e-paper display

  • Advisor Teardown Site

    John Baichtal05/01/2019 at 13:50 0 comments

    I found an interesting site with an utterly thorough teardown of the Advisor:

    I am going to use this info to help me create or repurpose an Advisor-style case. To begin with, I want to create a dummy interface in Adobe Illustrator that I can use to design my interface. What does every button do? What will be displayed on the LCD?

    I took an image from that site, cropped it to the edges of the beeper, made it 81mm x 55mm (the dimensions of the Advisor) and then made a rounded square that size. I wanted the corner radii to be authentic and ended up going with 3mm. However, I noticed the bottom radii are different, a smoother and shallower curve. At this stage, however, it doesn't matter!

  • Planning the Controller Project

    John Baichtal05/01/2019 at 13:08 0 comments

    I'm trying to stay motivated to keep working on this project. It's something I can actually use, and it would appeal to me to make it look like Cereal's beeper. Breaking the project down to some broad steps:

    1. Decide scope -- what will the controller specifically DO? For instance, will it have infrared to control legacy electronics? But it will also need to interface with wifi-controlled smart home equipment.

    2. Prototype with generic hardware -- use an UNO or something like that and just get a handle on the basic components. I don't want to buy the final hardware until I'm sure.

    3. Write the software. Get the generic setup to work.

    4. Decide on an enclosure. This one is going to be tough. I imagine I'll be 3D printing, though it's possible I could find a cheap pager at a store and repurpose the case. However, I can't move forward with the hardware until I decide.

    5. Design the hardware to fit inside the beeper's dimensions. Buy the actual components and assemble them. I think there's likely to be a PCB involved, specifically to hold the buttons, but maybe everything would attach it to it.

    6. If not putting it in a beeper shell, I need to design(!) and print the case specifically for the component stack to make it perfect.

    This is kind of a lot but it feels good to get started writing it down!

  • Display

    John Baichtal04/11/2019 at 12:26 0 comments

    I'm ogling the tri-color eink display that goes along with Adafruit's Feather controller. That sounds like a promising lead toward developing this project. From the Adafruit site: 

    Product Dimensions: 61.3mm x 40.4mm x 6.7mm / 2.4" x 1.6" x 0.3"

    So clearly the proportions are off. I'm too lazy to look up or measure the real pager's proportions but it looks wrong. But I'm OK with that. I'm assuming I would be 3D printing the casing at some point, rather than repurposing an original, so ultimately it doesn't matter what the front looks like. (Other than wanting it to look like Cereal Killer's yellow Advisor.

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karthik ram wrote 04/25/2019 at 06:54 point

Hi! I working on a robotics project... Check it out! Do drop a like too :P

  Are you sure? yes | no

John Baichtal wrote 04/05/2019 at 15:50 point

Maybe convert to use Pi Zero with ePaper hat?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dan Maloney wrote 04/05/2019 at 15:26 point

I had one of those pagers, they were great. Thought I still had it around in a junk box somewhere - would be fun to tear it down and see what it can be used for. Found a good teardown and reprogramming guide:

  Are you sure? yes | no

John Baichtal wrote 04/05/2019 at 15:35 point

There has got to be a ton of info on them out there...

  Are you sure? yes | no

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