It’s 2005 we have spent the day setting up our largest firework display of the year, Chris is sat in front of a PC connected to two prototype firing system circuit boards in upturned plastic boxes. This was the first time we’d tried to fire a show using a computer system. We had fired plenty of shows using our push button systems, but never fully automated. We had decided to tag it on as an extra to the show we ran at Reading Blue Coat School to see how well it worked.
The computer firing system had been designed and built by Chris when he was at Reading University in 2001 as his third year project, but it had taken till now to get the system operational enough to fire a show, well at least we hoped it was operational. Little did we know at the time that this would be the start of Sonning Fireworks providing explosive pyromusical shows for the most discerning clients in the UK!
The system had been working perfectly in his garage at home, but now out in the field something wasn’t right. Module one would communicate but module two wouldn’t, Chris racked his brains for the solution, this all worked in the garage. The system was based on the LonWorks building automation technology, a highly reliable field bus network, it could handle this configuration easily.
Suddenly Chris had a moment of inspiration, he remember one of the researchers from Uni saying something about the direct connect network requiring a shared ground. He leapt up and grabbed a roll of bell wire, rolling out a length between the two modules and connecting it across the negative terminals of both batteries. Bingo! The laptop connected perfectly to both modules and checked the fireworks which were wired in. Perfect! This configuration was only needed for these prototype boards, the final boards were much more resilient and easier to setup.
It was show time, we started firing the show with a combination of hand firing and electric firing, Chris was positioned at the PC ready to go. The team finished their parts of firing the show and rushed to stand with the crowd leaving Chris with the PC.
This was it, make or break, 4 years worth of work, will it fire, wont it fire. Chris nervously hit the fire button and this happened:
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