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A system which operates a digitally controlled model railroad transmitting a first command from a first client program to a resident external controlling interface through a first communications transport. Summons, Complaint for Declaratory Judgement, for Violations of Antitrust Laws, California Business and Professions Code § 17200, and Lanham Act, and for Libel, Robert Jacobson v. CMs homepage c't digital homepage, “HyperCard stack,” (at least one year prior to filing date), 3 pages. Tech Model Railroad Club-Wilkipedia, the free encyclopedia (at least one year prior to filing date), 2 pages. TMRC History: A Breif History of the Tech Model Railroad Club, Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT, MIT Room N52-118, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, 7 pages, (at least one year prior to filing date). TMRC-Progress Page: May 1998, 2 pages, Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT, MIT Room N52-118, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139. Roger W Webster, PHD and Mary A Klaus, A Laboratory Platform to control a Digital Model Railraod Over the Web Using Java, Department of Computer Science, Millersville University, Millersville, PA USA 17551, 7 pages. Modellbahnsteuerung per Computer, 9 pages, with English translation, (at least one year prior to filing date). Rutger Friberg, “Model Railroad Electronics 5,” Published by Allt om Hobby 1997, 112 pages. Rutger Friberg, “Model Railroad Electronics 3,” Published by Allt om Hobby 1996, 104 pages. Rutger Friberg, “Model Railroad Electronics 2,” Published by Allt om Hobby 1995, 144 pages. Matt Katzer, “Model Railroad Computer Control (How I am going to write my Train Program),” Portland, Oregon, 27 pages, 1993 KAM Industries.
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Windows NT 4.0 Workstation Installation, (at least one year prior to filing date), 2 pages. Stan Ames, Rutger Friberg, Ed Loizeaux, Digital Command Control—the comprehensive guide to DCC, Published by Allt om Hobby In Co-operation with The Nationall Model Railroad Association, 1998, 144 pages.
Digi RR Enterprises, “Einlok 2.0 Digital Model Railroad command control Software for Windows Operation Manual Table of Contents,” 1995, Digi RR enterprises, 10395 Seminole Blvd. BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTIONThe present invention relates to a system for controlling a model railroad.Model railroads have traditionally been constructed with of a set of interconnected sections of train track, electric switches between different sections of the train track, and other electrically operated devices, such as train engines and draw bridges. A second command is transmitted from a second client program to the resident external controlling interface through a second communications transport. Auslander, “Research & Teaching Activities,” Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of California Berkeley, CA 94720-1740, 3 pages.
1997, 4 pages., Tech Model Railroad club of MIT, MIT Room N52-118, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139. 1997, 3 pages, Tech Model Railroad club of MIT, MIT Room N52-118, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139. 1997, 2 pages, Tech Model Railroad club of MIT, MIT Room N52-118, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139. 1998, 2 pages, Tech Model Railroad club of MIT, MIT Room N52-118, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139. 1998, 4 pages, Tech Model Railroad club of MIT, MIT Room N52-118, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139. 1998, 5 pages, Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT, MIT Room N52-118, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139. 1998, 4 pages., Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT, MIT Room N52-118, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139. 1998, 3 pages, Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT, MIT Room N52-118, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139.
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1900 Empire Blvd., Suite 303, Webster, NY 14580, 11 pages, (at least one year prior to filing date). Box 319, 16988 West Victor Road, New Berlin, Wisconsin 53151, (Addendum contains information on the updated interface circuitry as of Feb.
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Matthew Katzer, et al, “Declaration of Robert Jacobson in Opposition to Motion to Strike Claims 5 & 7 by defendant Kevin Russell,” US District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, Case No. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of receiving responses representative of the state of said digitally controlled model railroad and validating said responses regarding said interaction.
The method of claim 1 wherein said first and second commands relate to the speed of locomotives. The method of claim 2, further comprising the step of updating said successful validation to at least one of said first and second client programs of at least one of said first and second commands with an indication that at least one of said first and second commands was unsuccessfully validated.
The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of updating a database of the state of said digitally controlled model railroad based upon said responses representative of said state of said digitally controlled model railroad. The method of claim 7 wherein said first command and third command are the same command, and said second command and said fourth command are the same command. The method of claim 11 wherein said first communications transport is at least one of a COM interface and a DCOM interface.
The method of claim 11 wherein said first communications transport and said second communications transport are DCOM interfaces. The method of claim 10 wherein said first program and said interface are operating on the same computer.
The method of claim 11 wherein said first program, said second program, and said interface are all operating on different computers. The method of claim 10, further comprising the step of providing an acknowledgment to said first program in response to receiving said first command by said interface prior to validating said first command. The method of claim 10, further comprising the step of receiving responses representative of the state of said digitally controlled model railroad and validating said responses regarding said interaction. The method of claim 17, further comprising the step of comparing said responses to previous commands to determine which said previous commands it corresponds with. The method of claim 10, further comprising the step of updating validation of said first command.
The method of claim 19, further comprising the step of updating a database of the state of said digitally controlled model railroad based upon responses representative of said state of said digitally controlled model railroad. The method of claim 20, further comprising the step of updating said successful validation to said first program in response to receiving said first command by said interface together with state information from said database related to said first command. The method of claim 10 wherein said interface communicates in an asynchronous manner with said first program while communicating in a synchronous manner with command stations. The method of claim 23 wherein said interface communicates in an asynchronous manner with said first and second programs. The method of claim 23 wherein said first communications transport is at least one of a COM interface and a DCOM interface. The method of claim 23 wherein said first communications transport and said second communications transport are DCOM interfaces. The method of claim 23 wherein said first program and said interface are operating on the same computer. The method of claim 23 wherein said first program, said second program, and said interface are all operating on different computers. The method of claim 23, further comprising the step of providing an acknowledgment to said first program in response to receiving said first command by said interface that said first command was successfully validated prior to validating said first command. The method of claim 29, further comprising the step of receiving responses representative of the state of said digitally controlled model railroad. The method of claim 30, further comprising the step of comparing said responses to previous commands to determine which said previous commands it corresponds with.
The method of claim 31, further comprising the step of updating a database of the state of said digitally controlled model railroad based upon said responses representative of said state of said digitally controlled model railroad.
The method of claim 32, further comprising the step of updating said successful validation to said first program in response to receiving said first command by said interface together with state information from said database related to said first command. The method of claim 35, further comprising the step of sending said first command to a second processor which processes said first command into a state suitable for execution on said digitally controlled model railroad.
The method of claim 36, further comprising the step of said second process queuing a plurality of commands received.
The method of claim 35 wherein said first communications transport is at least one of a COM interface and a DCOM interface.
The method of claim 38 wherein said first communications transport and said second communications transport are DCOM interfaces. The method of claim 35 wherein said first program and said first processor are operating on the same computer.
The method of claim 38 wherein said first program, said second program, and said first processor are all operating on different computers. The method of claim 35, further comprising the step of receiving responses representative of the state of said digitally controlled model railroad.
The method of claim 35, further comprising the step of updating a database of the state of said digitally controlled model railroad. The method of claim 45, further comprising the step of updating said successful validation to said first program in response to receiving said first command by first processor together with state information from said database related to said first command. The method of claim 43 wherein said first processor communicates in an asynchronous manner with said first program.
Train engines receive their power to travel on the train track by electricity provided by a controller through the track itself. Neither the service provider nor the domain owner maintain any relationship with the advertisers. The first command and the second command are received by the resident external controlling interface which queues the first and second commands. 15, 1997, version 4.1 Metro-North Railroad, Grand Central Terminal System Implementation, Contract Number-9066, 33 pages. Tanner, regarding KAM Industries with Respect to Their Intellectual Property Matters,” dated Sep. The speed and direction of the train engine is controlled by the level and polarity, respectively, of the electrical power supplied to the train track. In case of trademark issues please contact the domain owner directly (contact information can be found in whois).
The resident external controlling interface sends third and fourth commands representative of the first and second commands, respectively, to a digital command station for execution on the digitally controlled model railroad. 1998, Digital plus by Lenz, 12 pages, Lenz Agency of North America, P>O> Box 143, Chelmsford, MA 01824. 19, 1996, Metro-North Railroad, Grand Central Terminal System Implementation contract No.-9066.
The operator manually pushes buttons or pulls levers to cause the switches or other electrically operated devices to function, as desired. Such model railroad sets are suitable for a single operator, but unfortunately they lack the capability of adequately controlling multiple trains independently. In addition, such model railroad sets are not suitable for being controlled by multiple operators, especially if the operators are located at different locations distant from the model railroad, such as different cities.A digital command control (DDC) system has been developed to provide additional controllability of individual train engines and other electrical devices. Each device the operator desires to control, such as a train engine, includes an individually addressable digital decoder. A digital command station (DCS) is electrically connected to the train track to provide a command in the form of a set of encoded digital bits to a particular device that includes a digital decoder.
A suitable standard for the digital command control system is the NMRA DCC Standards, issued March 1997, and is incorporated herein by reference. While providing the ability to individually control different devices of the railroad set, the DCC system still fails to provide the capability for multiple operators to control the railroad devices, especially if the operators are remotely located from the railroad set and each other.DigiToys Systems of Lawrenceville, Ga. The software includes an interface which allows the operator to select desired changes to devices of the railroad set that include a digital decoder, such as increasing the speed of a train or switching a switch. The software issues a command locally or through a network, such as the internet, to a digital command station at the railroad set which executes the command. The protocol used by the software is based on Cobra from Open Management Group where the software issues a command to a communication interface and awaits confirmation that the command was executed by the digital command station. When the software receives confirmation that the command executed, the software program sends the next command through the communication interface to the digital command station. In other words, the technique used by the software to control the model railroad is analogous to an inexpensive printer where commands are sequentially issued to the printer after the previous command has been executed. Unfortunately, it has been observed that the response of the model railroad to the operator appears slow, especially over a distributed network such as the internet.
The resident external controlling interface sends third and fourth commands representative of the first and second commands, respectively, to a digital command station for execution on the digitally controlled model railroad.Incorporating a communications transport between the multiple client program and the resident external controlling interface permits multiple operators of the model railroad at locations distant from the physical model railroad and each other. In the environment of a model railroad club where the members want to simultaneously control devices of the same model railroad layout, which preferably includes multiple trains operating thereon, the operators each provide commands to the resistant external controlling interface, and hence the model railroad.
In addition by queuing by commands at a single resident external controlling interface permits controlled execution of the commands by the digitally controlled model railroad, would may otherwise conflict with one another.In another aspect of the present invention the first command is selectively processed and sent to one of a plurality of digital command stations for execution on the digitally controlled model railroad based upon information contained therein. Preferably, the second command is also selectively processed and sent to one of the plurality of digital command stations for execution on the digitally controlled model railroad based upon information contained therein. The resident external controlling interface also preferably includes a command queue to maintain the order of the commands.The command queue also allows the sharing of multiple devices, multiple clients to communicate with the same device (locally or remote) in a controlled manner, and multiple clients to communicate with different devices. The first processor provides an acknowledgement to the first client program through the first communications transport indicating that the first command has properly executed prior to execution of commands related to the first command by the digitally controlled model railroad.
The communications transport is preferably a COM or DCOM interface.The model railroad application involves the use of extremely slow real-time interfaces between the digital command stations and the devices of the model railroad.
In order to increase the apparent speed of execution to the client, other than using high-speed communication interfaces, the resident external controller interface receives the command and provides an acknowledgement to the client program in a timely manner before the execution of the command by the digital command stations.
Accordingly, the execution of commands provided by the resident external controlling interface to the digital command stations occur in a synchronous manner, such as a first-in-first-out manner. The COM and DCOM communications transport between the client program and the resident external controlling interface is operated in an asynchronous manner, namely providing an acknowledgement thereby releasing the communications transport to accept further communications prior to the actual execution of the command.
The combination of the synchronous and the asynchronous data communication for the commands provides the benefit that the operator considers the commands to occur nearly instantaneously while permitting the resident external controlling interface to verify that the command is proper and cause the commands to execute in a controlled manner by the digital command stations, all without additional high-speed communication networks.


Moreover, for traditional distributed software execution there is no motivation to provide an acknowledgment prior to the execution of the command because the command executes quickly and most commands are sequential in nature.
In other words, the execution of the next command is dependent upon proper execution of the prior command so there would be no motivation to provide an acknowledgment prior to its actual execution.BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGSFIG. 11 is an exemplary embodiment of a command queue.DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTReferring to FIG.
1, a model train control system 10 includes a communications transport 12 interconnecting a client program 14 and a resident external controlling interface 16. The client program 14 executes on the model railroad operator's computer and may include any suitable system to permit the operator to provide desired commands to the resident external controlling interface 16. For example, the client program 14 may include a graphical interface representative of the model railroad layout where the operator issues commands to the model railroad by making changes to the graphical interface.
The client program 14 also defines a set of Application Programming Interfaces (API's), described in detail later, which the operator accesses using the graphical interface or other programs such as Visual Basic, C++, Java, or browser based applications. There may be multiple client programs interconnected with the resident external controlling interface 16 so that multiple remote operators may simultaneously provide control commands to the model railroad.The communications transport 12 provides an interface between the client program 14 and the resident external controlling interface 16.
The communications transport 12 may be any suitable communications medium for the transmission of data, such as the internet, local area network, satellite links, or multiple processes operating on a single computer. The preferred interface to the communications transport 12 is a COM or DCOM interface, as developed for the Windows operating system available from Microsoft Corporation.
The communications transport 12 also determines if the resident external controlling interface 16 is system resident or remotely located on an external system. The communications transport 12 may also use private or public communications protocol as a medium for communications.
The client program 14 provides commands and the resident external controlling interface 16 responds to the communications transport 12 to exchange information.
A description of COM (common object model) and DCOM (distributed common object model) is provided by Chappel in a book entitled Understanding ActiveX and OLE, Microsoft Press, and is incorporated by reference herein.Incorporating a communications transport 12 between the client program(s) 14 and the resident external controlling interface 16 permits multiple operators of the model railroad at locations distant from the physical model railroad and each other.
In the environment of a model railroad club where the members want to simultaneously control devices of the same model railroad layout, which preferably includes multiple trains operating thereon, the operators each provide commands to the resistant external controlling interfaces and hence the model railroad.The manner in which commands are executed for the model railroad under COM and DCOM may be as follows. The synchronous manner of the request is the technique used by COM and DCOM to execute commands. The communications transport 12 packages the command for the transport mechanism to the resident external controlling interface 16. The resident external controlling interface 16 then passes the command to the digital command stations 18 which in turn executes the command.
After the digital command station 18 executes the command an acknowledgement is passed back to the resident external controlling interface 16 which in turn passes an acknowledgement to the client program 14. Upon receipt of the acknowledgement by the client program 14, the communications transport 12 is again available to accept another command. The train control system 10, without more, permits execution of commands by the digital command stations 18 from multiple operators, but like the DigiToys Systems' software the execution of commands is slow.The present inventor came to the realization that unlike traditional distributed systems where the commands passed through a communications transport are executed nearly instantaneously by the server and then an acknowledgement is returned to the client, the model railroad application involves the use of extremely slow real-time interfaces between the digital command stations and the devices of the model railroad. The present inventor came to the further realization that in order to increase the apparent speed of execution to the client, other than using high-speed communication interfaces, the resident external controller interface 16 should receive the command and provide an acknowledgement to the client program 12 in a timely manner before the execution of the command by the digital command stations 18.
Accordingly, the execution of commands provided by the resident external controlling interface 16 to the digital command stations 18 occur in a synchronous manner, such as a first-in-first-out manner. The COM and DCOM communications transport 12 between the client program 14 and the resident external controlling interface 16 is operated in an asynchronous manner, namely providing an acknowledgement thereby releasing the communications transport 12 to accept further communications prior to the actual execution of the command. The combination of the synchronous and the asynchronous data communication for the commands provides the benefit that the operator considers the commands to occur nearly instantaneously while permitting the resident external controlling interface 16 to verify that the command is proper and cause the commands to execute in a controlled manner by the digital command stations 18, all without additional high-speed communication networks. It is to be understood that other devices, such as digital devices, may be controlled in a manner as described for model railroads.Referring to FIG. 2, the client program 14 sends a command over the communications transport 12 that is received by an asynchronous command processor 100. The asynchronous command processor 100 queries a local database storage 102 to determine if it is necessary to package a command to be transmitted to a command queue 104. The local database storage 102 primarily contains the state of the devices of the model railroad, such as for example, the speed of a train, the direction of a train, whether a draw bridge is up or down, whether a light is turned on or off, and the configuration of the model railroad layout. If the command received by the asynchronous command processor 100 is a query of the state of a device, then the asynchronous command processor 100 retrieves such information from the local database storage 102 and provides the information to an asynchronous response processor 106.
The asynchronous response processor 106 then provides a response to the client program 14 indicating the state of the device and releases the communications transport 12 for the next command.The asynchronous command processor 100 also verifies, using the configuration information in the local database storage 102, that the command received is a potentially valid operation. If the command is invalid, the asynchronous command processor 100 provides such information to the asynchronous response processor 106, which in turn returns an error indication to the client program 14.The asynchronous command processor 100 may determine that the necessary information is not contained in the local database storage 102 to provide a response to the client program 14 of the device state or that the command is a valid action.
In either case, the valid unknown state or action command is packaged and forwarded to the command queue 104.
The packaging of the command may also include additional information from the local database storage 102 to complete the client program 14 request, if necessary. Together with packaging the command for the command queue 104, the asynchronous command processor 100 provides a command to the asynchronous request processor 106 to provide a response to the client program 14 indicating that the event has occurred, even though such an event has yet to occur on the physical railroad layout.As such, it can be observed that whether or not the command is valid, whether or not the information requested by the command is available to the asynchronous command processor 100, and whether or not the command has executed, the combination of the asynchronous command processor 100 and the asynchronous response processor 106 both verifies the validity of the command and provides a response to the client program 14 thereby freeing up the communications transport 12 for additional commands.
Without the asynchronous nature of the resident external controlling interface 16, the response to the client program 14 would be, in many circumstances, delayed thereby resulting in frustration to the operator that the model railroad is performing in a slow and painstaking manner.
In this manner, the railroad operation using the asynchronous interface appears to the operator as nearly instantaneously responsive.Each command in the command queue 104 is fetched by a synchronous command processor 110 and processed.
The synchronous command processor 110 queries a controller database storage 112 for additional information, as necessary, and determines if the command has already been executed based on the state of the devices in the controller database storage 112. In the event that the command has already been executed, as indicated by the controller database storage 112, then the synchronous command processor 110 passes information to the command queue 104 that the command has been executed or the state of the device. The asynchronous response processor 106 fetches the information from the command cue 104 and provides a suitable response to the client program 14, if necessary, and updates the local database storage 102 to reflect the updated status of the railroad layout devices.If the command fetched by the synchronous command processor 110 from the command queue 104 requires execution by external devices, such as the train engine, then the command is posted to one of several external device control logic 114 blocks.
The external device control logic 114 processes the command from the synchronous command processor 110 and issues appropriate control commands to the interface of the particular external device 116 to execute the command on the device and ensure that an appropriate response was received in response.
The external device is preferably a digital command control device that transmits digital commands to decoders using the train track. There are several different manufacturers of digital command stations, each of which has a different set of input commands, so each external device is designed for a particular digital command station. The digital command stations 18 of the external devices 116 provide a response to the external device control logic 114 which is checked for validity and identified as to which prior command it corresponds to so that the controller database storage 112 may be updated properly. The process of transmitting commands to and receiving responses from the external devices 116 is slow.The synchronous command processor 110 is notified of the results from the external control logic 114 and, if appropriate, forwards the results to the command queue 104. The asynchronous response processor 100 clears the results from the command queue 104 and updates the local database storage 102 and sends an asynchronous response to the client program 14, if needed. The response updates the client program 14 of the actual state of the railroad track devices, if changed, and provides an error message to the client program 14 if the devices actual state was previously improperly reported or a command did not execute properly.The use of two separate database storages, each of which is substantially a mirror image of the other, provides a performance enhancement by a fast acknowledgement to the client program 14 using the local database storage 102 and thereby freeing up the communications transport 12 for additional commands. In addition, the number of commands forwarded to the external device control logic 114 and the external devices 116, which are relatively slow to respond, is minimized by maintaining information concerning the state and configuration of the model railroad.
Also, the use of two separate database tables 102 and 112 allows more efficient multi-threading on multi-processor computers.In order to achieve the separation of the asynchronous and synchronous portions of the system the command queue 104 is implemented as a named pipe, as developed by Microsoft for Windows.
The queue 104 allows both portions to be separate from each other, where each considers the other to be the destination device. In addition, the command queue maintains the order of operation which is important to proper operation of the system.The use of a single command queue 104 allows multiple instantrations of the asynchronous functionality, with one for each different client. The single command queue 104 also allows the sharing of multiple devices, multiple clients to communicate with the same device (locally or remote) in a controlled manner, and multiple clients to communicate with different devices. The first technique, generally referred to as a transaction (one or more operations), is a synchronous communication where a command is transmitted; executed, and a response is received therefrom prior to the transmission of the next sequentially received command. The second technique is a cache with out of order execution where a command is executed and a response received therefrom prior to the execution of the next command, but the order of execution is not necessarily the same as the order that the commands were provided to the command station.
The third technique is a local-area-network model where the commands are transmitted and received simultaneously. In the LAN model there is no requirement to wait until a response is received for a particular command prior to sending the next command. Accordingly, the LAN model may result in many commands being transmitted by the command station that have yet to be executed.
In addition, some digital command stations use two or more of these techniques.With all these different techniques used to communicate with the model railroad set and the system 10 providing an interface for each different type of command station, there exists a need for the capability of matching up the responses from each of the different types of command stations with the particular command issued for record keeping purposes.
Without matching up the responses from the command stations, the databases can not be updated properly.Validation functionality is included within the external device control logic 114 to accommodate all of the different types of command stations. 3, an external command processor 200 receives the validated command from the synchronous command processor 110. The external command processor 200 determines which device the command should be directed to, the particular type of command it is, and builds state information for the command. The state information includes, for example, the address, type, port, variables, and type of commands to be sent out.
In other words, the state information includes a command set for a particular device on a particular port device. The constructed command is forwarded to the command sender 202 which is another queue, and preferably a circular queue.
The command sender 202 receives the command and transmits commands within its queue in a repetitive nature until the command is removed from its queue. A command response processor 204 receives all the commands from the command stations and passes the commands to the validation function 206. The validation function 206 compares the received command against potential commands that are in the queue of the command sender 202 that could potentially provide such a result. Second, the results could be partially executed commands which are likewise normally discarded. Such a case could result from the operator manually changing the state of devices on the model railroad or from another external device, assuming a shared interface to the DCS.



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