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A Brief History of X10

The X10 Power Line Carrier (PLC) technology was originally developed in the 1970's by Pico Electronics in Scotland. Pico formed a joint venture with BSR in 1978 called X-10 Ltd. and the first shipments of X10 products began in '79. Over the 18 years that followed, millions of X10 compatible devices have shipped and the number of different X10 compatible products has grown from a handful in '79 to hundreds today. X-10 Ltd. bought out the BSR's interest in '87. The original X10 patent expired in December '97. X10 is now an open standard and many manufacturers are developing new and improved x10 products.

How it Works!

X10 is a communications "language" that allows compatible products to talk to each other via the existing 110V electrical wiring in the building. 

X10 Transmitter devices send a coded low voltage signal that is superimposed over the 110VAC current. Any X10 Receiver device plugged into the household 110V power supply will see this signal. However, the Receivers will only respond when it sees a signal that has its address. Up to 256 different addresses are available. If you want more than one device to respond to the same signal, simply set them to the same addresses.

X10 devices can be categorized into 3 distinct groups:

  • Transmitters
  • Receivers
  • Transmitter/Receivers (2 Way X10 devices)
X10 communicates between transmitters and receivers by sending and receiving signals over the power line wiring. These signals involve short RF bursts which represent digital information.
X10 transmissions are synchronized to the zero crossing point of the AC power line. The goal should be to transmit as close to the zero crossing point as possible, but certainly within 200 microseconds of the zero crossing point. The PL513 and TW523 provide a 60 Hz square wave with a maximum delay of 100 µsec from the zero crossing point of the AC power line. The maximum delay between signal envelope input and 120 kHz output bursts is 50 µsec. Therefore, it should be arranged that outputs to the PL513 and TW523 be within 50 µs of this 60 Hz zero crossing reference square wave. .
A Binary 1 is represented by a 1 millisecond burst of 120 kHz at the zero crossing point, and a Binary 0 by the absence of 120 kHz. The PL513 and TW523 modulate their inputs (from the O.E.M.) with 120 kHz, therefore only the 1 ms "envelope" need be applied to their inputs. These 1 millisecond bursts should equally be transmitted three times to coincide with the zero crossing point of all three phases in a three phase distribution system. Figure 1 shows the timing relationship of these bursts relative to zero crossing.
A complete code transmission encompasses eleven cycles of the power line. The first two cycles represent a Start Code. The next four cycles represent the House Code and the last five cycles represent either the Number Code (1 thru 16) or a Function Code (On, Off, etc.). This complete block, (Start Code, House Code, Key Code) should always be transmitted in groups of 2 with 3 power line cycles between each group of 2 codes. Bright and dim are exceptions to this rule and should be transmitted continuously (at least twice) with no gaps between codes.
Within each block of data, each four or five bit code should be transmitted in true compliment form on alternate half cycles of the power line. I.E. if a 1 millisecond burst of signal is transmitted on one half cycle (binary 1) then no signal should be transmitted on the next cycle, (binary 0).

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