It almost borders on the cliche, but there are two common motivations for wanting to get involved in home automation. In most cases you either want a home security system or you want to automate your morning coffee pot. Seriously, while obviously not everyone falls into one of these groups, you can do a good quick sort of the community by dividing among these lines.
That's why I had to laugh at the CommoCoffee 64. It is a 1985 peripheral for allowing a Commodore 64 computer to directly control a coffee maker. The text is not in English, but there's a nifty photo scanned from the Italian magazine Microcomputer. Whacky, but not all surprising given the holy grail status of coffee pot automation. (Thanks for the link, BoingBoing.)
I almost didn't include coffee pot automation in Smart Home Hacks, but a close friend and tech reviewers insisted that it was necessary. Thus, if you have the book, turn to Hack #37 for full details on how to accomplish this using more modern techniques.