Every kitchen needs a timer. An engineer, however, might desire a timer that has a tad more horsepower than normal. Alan certainly did, so he used an ATMega 328 to make one. He set out to build a timer that is more reliable than his old mechanical one, more accurate, more pleasing to the ear, and easier to read. Most importantly, he wanted to waste some time on a fun learning project and put some extra parts to good use. He did all of these things quite well.
In my opinipon micro controllers are the future. We have seen even a siple small gadget have multiple controlls so we can better used it. Whirlpool french door refrigerators have also multiple micro controllers which help to add several features to it
We can see that the Open Source Hardware Initiatives are playing a major role in the advancements, e.g. Kitchen Utilities here. These boards will show us many more advancements in many day to day applications with electronics.
@daleste: I built one of those clay pot smokers about 10 years ago after seeing Alton Brown do one on Good Eats. They work quite well except that finding a clay pot greater than 8 inches in diameter is difficult: most of the larger ones are plastic made to look like clay. Since I like to do a whole brisket at a time, it doesn't fit.
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