Wednesday, July 21, 2010


A photo of a cup of coffee.Image via Wikipedia

A few days ago, I read a complaint that a man had about his boss. This is not unusual, work is all about having to do things that you do not want to do, and the boss is the person who makes you do them on pain of firing. The complaint had to do with the office coffee machine. Everyone likes coffee, but no one likes to take the time to refill the damned thing. In more egalitarian offices, this duty falls upon the person who takes the last of the coffee. In this office, the boss took the last of the coffee, then required his underlings to handle the refill.
This gives me an idea. A more automated coffee-maker, capable of refilling itself. It would have an embedded computer, and connect to the office network. A small interface would allow people to replace grounds, refill the pot, and report on quantities of coffee available. It would need a number of sensors, like a scale beneath the hot plate to determine how full the pot is.
Now, if a number of offices had this device, I could justify the businesses pooling together to have a coffee maintenance worker travel from office to office, maintaining each machine in turn. Maintenance would consist of refilling the supply of coffee powder, and checks of the mechanics. Any subsystem that fails would be replaced. This way, the machine is always in good working order and full of coffee. Morale is high, as no worker in the office need worry about having to refill the coffee machine. The cost to the business is low, perhaps only $1/day if enough businesses participate in this program, but the pool is large enough to pay at least minimum wage to the coffee maintainer.
I can also talk about the scale calibrations. If the scale reports zero, then the pot is not in the coffee maker, and the device should report that someone is currently taking coffee. (It should suggest checking back in about a minute.) If the scale reports the weight of the empty pot, then the device should report that the supply of coffee is exhausted, and suggest ordering a refill. (Which would be done with one click.) If the scale reports the weight of the pot plus the weight of a full supply of coffee, the device should report a 100% supply of coffee, and a suggestion to come have a pot. If the weight is between full and empty, it should calculate a percentage, and offer the refill button between a certain percentage and zero.
I should have an artist draw a picture of this, if an artist can be found.
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