When I was a lad, making electronics meant you could listen to shortwave radio or talk to people around the world, when there was little other opportunity.
Plus, things like cars were still hackable with a few transistors and passive components, you could make a customised indicator timer, or turbo timer or what ever, and it was probably way cheaper if you knew what you were doing.
Fast forward, very little you can now make is cheaper, or creates a functionality not otherwise available retail/off the shelf.
Now for me, it was great - my dad was a radio amateur, I grew up with the those things, he lectured at uni and I had access to PDP-8 and 11 when no one had a computer at home and most people interacted with punch cards.
I spent literally years of my younger life tinkering and discovered/learned by direct exploration and experimentation all sorts of things eg the rectification of copper oxide, Q factor and how to get it and use it, all the things you can use as earthing and antennas in radio systems (some pretty strange things in there), I wrote and sold Atari 400 games when I was 13 on, learning things like how to write a floating point library in a 6502 in minimal space, create physics engines for games, just to name a few, the list goes on.
Now I have worked as an electrical engineer designing and building large and small industrial power and control systems for over 30 years.
Most days I draw down on some former hobby or tinkering experience in some way in my work.
Not sure the maker movement we have seen recently will create the same trajectory for too may others, maybe I am wrong, but a lot of what I did was because there were no equivalent consumer goods and the best info available was at the local library or maybe the odd magazine if you were lucky.
I nodded when I read this, thinking, "Yeah, and what's the modern equivalent?" Everything seems so high level and complex, like CANBUS in the case of car, USB for PCs and of course so much is locked down.
Then I realised that kids could get a start sticking an LED on a GPIO pin from an Arduino. I believe a PI is basically a PC, but perhaps it could have a few such pins as well, if it doesn't already. PCs used to have parallel ports which served a similar function.
Then from blinking a LED they could incrementally add a few more circuits: 7 segment display, some counters, who knows. Even some analog stuff (to hell with harmonics) are possible -- and controllable from your laptop or phone over network.
Perhaps Evel Mad Scientists or Adafruit has a few things in this direction?
I’ve had my share of grounding faults while plugged into the wall or on stage (and that was just with the factory wiring on a 70’s Traynor YGM4). ...ouch
But guitars are simple enough. You can replace components to add new features or change tone and volume responsiveness and even add certain wiring/component patterns to allow you some gain in the internal guitar circuits.
Old effects pedals as well. There’s a ton of modding or BYO instructions out there.
All the analog, point-to-point stuff is easily-enough hackable anyway.
I mean if we’re drawing an equivalent to a car... the relative starting costs might be high, depending.
That said, there's plenty of safe audio equipment out there to experiment with. Before I got an EE degree, I was building effects pedals in my basement.
Regarding effects pedals specifically, you won't end up saving much money versus buying one off the shelf due to economies of scale, but you can make something really fun and unique by yourself pretty easily.
Guitars are also quite safe and relatively forgiving as you keep the grounding intact.
That said I only mentioned amplifiers as the GP was referring to hacking on cars—so I imagine the project wasn’t targeted at complete beginners when they were wondering about equivalent projects. And draining caps before working on them is one of the first things any tinkerer learns—or learns to stay away from.
And speaking of custom household devices, I’m about to spend $30 or so at Adafruit to build a thing that texts my wife when her outdoor herb pots need watering. :)
You're lucky your dad could mentor you with that stuff. I didn't know anybody who knew anything about electronics, so I just floundered around with it. That all changed when I got to college, where there was electronics expertise everywhere and I was finally able to build things that worked.
For example, someone finally showed me how to solder properly. What a difference a couple minutes of help makes!
He was both a lecturer of maths and computing, but also taught teachers how to teach. His attitude was that if you were really interested you needed to do it yourself and learn through successes and failures and build up all the concepts in your own mind - it was the concepts, not the facts that made all the difference going forwards.
Now this is so much more true than ever, because facts and calculations are available as a "service" effectively on the internet.
Abstracting the concepts and synthesizing new ones through extension, application of lightly related techniques/ materials/methods, cross pollination, etc in your mind is the truly irreplaceable skill that leads to disruption and innovation.
Ironically, there were lots of kids taking cars apart in high school, so I could help and get help. But in college, nobody, and I mean nobody, was interested in cars. It's still hard to find anyone who is, hardly anyone has a modified car. My (medium modified) dodge wouldn't merit a glance in my high school daze, but today people go ape when I drive by in it.
The price of test equipment is one of the reasons I went into software despite having an EEng degree. Tinkering with a computer is way cheaper, and I sort of gravitated towards stuff that had software in it, then ended up realizing that I don't really care about electronics all that much. The degree served well for getting a job in writing firmware, I guess.
I also enjoyed the stories from Feynman how he tinkered around with radios bought at rummage sales. I think they are in "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" but there is also a recording where he recounts those times in person.
Looking back on my childhood vs today.
I was underutilized. My parents didnt know past geometry.
At the same time, very thankful my dad got me a computer as a kid. Wish we did more than install video games. But hey, computers broke more back then and I learned how to fix OS or hardware problems.
Fads are useful though. The original way of doing electronics with a breadboard and some 74 series ICs was a fad. CB radio was a fad. The hobby computer market was a fad. The home games console business was a fad. The 8 bit home computer revolution was more of a craze than a fad, but still arguably a fad.
Fads are often driven by the genius of one or two individuals, the author R A Penfold wrote most of the 74 series breadboarding books, Tandy/Radio Shack did their bit in providing bits to people keen to get in on the hobby.
Maybe the maker movement was a bit like that. Take away the Raspberry Pi and the 3-D printer and there isn't so much making going on.
So the question becomes what happens next, what is the next fad?
Someone has probably worked it out in a garage somewhere and the media will cotton on to it in a couple of years time.
A key part of these fads is that it is somehow educational. Not sure anything useful came from people tinkering with any of the stuff involved in these 'fads' but then we wouldn't be where we are without them. This in part depends on when people get on board. If you are the only kid in town in at the start then you learn useful stuff, when it becomes a fad the other kids get pushed into something they can't be that bothered with, the cool stuff has already been done and it becomes commoditised ready made 'meh'.
There was a time when the fad was marquetry. The maker scene of the time had people making beautiful sideboards out of wood with beautifully inlaid veneer. All kinds of wonderful things made of wood. The enabling tools were lathes and there were magazines pushing people to make new and exciting things, nobody needed a beautiful case to show off their Airfix plane collection but people would make such a thing if prodded along. In a way the maker scene is like that with updated materials.
The problem with the Maker movement is that it was never going to provide the same rewards. The appeal of hobby electronics in the 70s/80s was DIYing expensive consumer items for low cost.
In some cases you could DIY expensive professional items. Everyone knew computers were rare and expensive, but you could build one. In your own home. For a not completely ridiculous price. And all the while you were learning what the elements did, and some of how they worked. Thrilling! For adults as well as teens and kids.
There was an aspirational element, a practical element, and - for some people - some interest in the mysteries behind the designs.
The nearest modern equivalent is probably app development, but that's already so rarefied it's not really a DIY scene.
Aduino/Pi are not consumer-friendly. You can build projects, but not replacement products - especially not products that have a modern ecosystem around them.
Tinkering for its own sake still has some appeal, but it's not driven by the same passionate curiosity that drove earlier fads.
And there was me just pushing a 555 timer into some breadboard. I imagine that some thought this was cheating.
I am broadly in agreement with you, however, I would like to hold back on my judgement to view this tinkering as useless, a waste of time. I used to work with a guy who had no idea about programming but that did not hold him back from having a great time with a Raspberry Pi. With next to no knowledge he was delving in deep into things I would struggle with, despite however many years of UNIX/Linux. Sometimes enthusiasm is wonderful.
Recently I took an interest in how the original arcade machines were programmed. At the time that arcades were a thing I did not see the art that was in the development of these games. The music in Marble Madness is a work of genius but at that time music was about things like a drummer being able to keep in time, not programming a synthesiser chip. Consequently I was not seeing what was really going on in these arcade machines and more wary of being fleeced in dingy arcades, with that feeling of guilt that goes with wasting time. Because I now have a different view of the arcade with this hindsight I am wary of dismissing the fads of today. I like to be a bit more open minded or naive.
During those years when the arcade beckoned I spent my time in a workshop of a different kind - a regular bicycle shop, doing evenings, school holidays and Saturdays. We were always in need of staff but I never had anyone from my school friends to recommend. This was a pity. Every working day I was loving it and getting better and better at doing things with spanners, the vice, everything really. I was not a big user of power tools but if you are holding things for the guy holding the oxy-acetylene torch you are still learning.
I wish there were more opportunities for this learning by doing and getting paid for it. It is a win-win-win. But for some reason - the same reason I could not recruit my school buddies into the bike workshop - we are not having enough of that going on. I feel the maker scene is useful for that, even if people cannot make replacement products they are at least learning tools that make them employable. Even if those tools are not needed in the job there is so much confidence and enthusiasm gained.
If I think back to my former workmate doing things with a Raspberry Pi, the initiative he showed made him employable in tech. He was doing pictures for the website (products) the slow Photoshop way rather than the ImageMagick automated way. Most artworkers are not suited to being taught how to automate their work, you just wouldn't bother to even try. I had a vested interest in him doing stuff the automated way and because I had got to know him through this Raspberry Pi nonsense I was able to explore the possibilities. His knowledge of shell scripting made a whole lot of stuff possible, making my job easier and giving him more day job time for Raspberry Pi tinkering. Luckily he wasn't overly micro managed.
Moved on to Shortwave Listening, QSL cards and at age 15 got my Technician license at the FCC office on Varick St in lower Manhattan because I didn't know any other hams who could administer the Novice license. I think Adafruit is now around the corner from where that office used to be?
I built tons of stuff from salvaged components, did lots of experiments that didn't pan out, accidentally discovered that the inductive spike from a big solenoid powered by a 9V battery is enough to shock! I went on to get degrees in EE and SE.
I firmly believe that right now it's easier than it ever was to get into the hobby. All those old parts are still available and tons of exciting ones are now easy to purchase, with tons of documentation. No more desoldering unknown transistors and playing around with resistors to get the bias right.
I think we all have our motivations for getting started and continuing. There won't be any shortage of curious kids getting involved and building weird stuff. Just take a look at the Arduino forums online, electronics as a hobby is exploding, it's just that people are getting started in a different way.
I do hope we’ll see hardware open up again, and maybe we will with the increasing focus on sustainability.
As an example, take a Nordic nRF52832 in a module, connect some sensors or LEDs to it, and you have a pretty neat device that you could access with your phone. But programming it to do something is an entirely different story.
Anyway, I went through a similar thinkering scene but it was in software, the FOSS scene of the late nineties up to early this decade was very active and there were tons of tools and programs that surpassed retail software of the time.
As for electronics right now, there's some crazy things in the FOSH scene and if I had the money I would get more into that, but when it comes to retail electronic and IoT stuff I'm skeptic: too many corners cut, too many security holes, too much data going into opaque servers, etc. And that's just security and privacy, don't get me started on planed obsolescence and repairability.
And there's still a lot of stuff you can make that have no retail equivalent, from console clones with FPGAs for perfect emulation to car automation with comma.ai
I think this is a matter of perspective. The components you string together are now scaled up, as are the experiences of younger folks.
I think of some friends who were saying "people just can't become a private pilot nowadays", but later I wondered if maybe there are new opportunities they don't recognize (like powered paragliding).
It was a lot of fun. I did a good number of electrical engineering courses as part of my computer engineering degree. Now with kids, I plan on doing small projects to pique their curiosity
Edit: wow, both were founded in the 1920s
I kept my intro to electronics book I had as a kid. Pages are all yellow, but the activities are still amazing. I will start some of these with my daughter this summer.
Ultimately I suspect Arduino boards gathering dust on the self are the overwhelming majority. People are either interested in it and rapidly move on to more specialized applications (Hobbyist multi-rotor electronics quickly graduated from 8bit AVRs to 32 bit ARMs) or they aren't and the dev kits find room in the closet.
I figured I'd either learn android-development, or hardware-stuff. Bought an Arduino kit and never looked back. In my limited experience people dabble at such things then move on, or give it up entirely there isn't too much of a middle-ground.
I still dabble with ESP8266 things two years later; most recently I hooked up a simple 433Mhz radio-receiver to a board, and wrote some code to receive/understand/decode the radio-broadcasts a cheap off-the-shelf wireless temperature/humidity-sensor transmits. This allows me to log the temperature/humidity of our sauna.
Usually I'd wire up a sensor of my own, but I figured it would be less-risky to use an off-the-shelf sensor/transmitter. The idea of mixing steamy saunas with a USB-PSU was a dangerous one, and I even balked at using a rechargeable battery.
There aren't many things I buy for my hobby/practice, just random sensors, or accessories. Most of the time I just order them from AliExpress and take the time-hit waiting for them to arrive.
It's all fun stuff and of some usefulness to me personally, but I don't think much of anything I've done has any professional applicability; other than generalized familiarity with electronics and components I wouldn't feel comfortable producing a real product.
Are there actually consumer electronics out there that are just arduino examples glued together?
A lot of the existing power-switches that can be toggled with an app / radio-button are little more than an ESP8266 and a relay. The sonoff-line of smart-switches would be the obvious example.
Sonoff also make and sell RF<->WiFi bridges, but I guess the target market is already hackers rather than consumers for things like that.
Otherwise I've seen a few wifi-controllable LED-strips, and similar things that I'm pretty sure are identical in terms of hardware to what I've built. You can see some crowdfunded projects are just scaled-up home-toys too.
I'm struggling to think of better examples, but I'm sure they exist! In terms of product though it's interesting to evolve something from a bundle of junk loosely coupled to being a thing in a pretty case which can be enjoyed by others. I setup a trivial display to show tram-departures from outside my house, which the whole family uses now and loves. It went from a cardboard-box with a pile of stuff in it to a 3d-printed display, and then later I added the ability for it to be controlled via a HTTP-server, running as an Access-Point when it was initially setup. The whole thing became very very user-friendly. (But at the same time the only real user is ourselves, and trying to sell it would be a bit difficult.)
The Arduino IDE is also compatible with various other microcontrollers, including the STM32 family which are extremely widely used in production electronics. Typically their production code isn't written with the Arduino tools but you can most certainly prototype with it.
Some of the newer ones can trace their lineage pretty directly to Arduino clones running TMK/QMK firmwares. The commercial version is usually going to cut out as much of the Arduino bits as possible and go for a soldered on microcontroller once you're building for sale.
You'll find AVR chips controlling many, many devices in the wild. My Lulzbot 3d printer uses an ATMega for instance.
First I became a local volunteer for ultramarathons, health care emergency exercises, things like that.
Next I developed a bunch of communications standards to support people in wildfire-type emergencies.
Then I just got really involved in learning about radio tech that uses the internet, and started working on a webSDR project to get a local server set up.
In between all of that I've participated in some ARISS SSTV events via the International Space Station and have some nifty commemoration certificates on my wall.
And finally I made a bunch of new friends and became part of a group that actually mostly observes a really high standard of communications decency and loves to support learning and technology. Through the community I've befriended astronomers, cops, engineers, firemen, physicists, all of those things I idolized as a kid.
This is to say nothing of the gadgetry, the ability to reach out across the world using any number of methods. Randomly getting in touch with a Japanese radio operator whose daughter lives just down the street from where I used to live in Japan. Talking to a Hugh from Ireland and telling him about my son who is also named Hugh. Getting my kids on the air and asking a bunch of radio operators across the US to take turns wishing them a happy birthday just for fun. Knowing they're enjoying it too. Fun little moments like that.
Adafruit has been driving a lot of usable, rewarding electronics. They've been pushing LEDS (mostly WS2812 and APA102) in usable, prepackaged form factors. I really love their LED strips that are already diffused. They're beautiful and immediately usable. They're a little expensive, but I use their products to try out my ideas. But besides them there's not a lot of companies who make physical hardware appealing and available.
Side-note, why aren't there LED strips with a 3.3v logic level??? Almost all microcontrollers have a 3.3v logic level but APA102/WS2812 have a 5v logic level. Very annoying to convert.
A lot of micro-controllers are run from batteries, especially high-volume products, so there’s always going to be a pull towards power efficient languages, even if your app has wall power available.
Second heeen’s comment on using 3V3 directly. I built Halloween costumes that ran directly off an 18650 powering the Arduino and driving the APA102 LED strings. No issues as the batteries ran from 4.2+ to 3.7 or less volts. If it was life safety, I’d care, but for blinkenlights, I’m willing to push outside the datasheet.
Specifically check out bibliopixel for controlling LEDs in python. https://maniacallabs.github.io/BiblioPixel/
I hope companies like osh park, sparkfun and so on never go the way of radio shack.
That's not to say hardware stuff can't thrive, just perhaps not at the scale venture capital would require.
The counterpoint to this would be: if your child built an app and showed it to their friends, would they be impressed? How about if they built a smartphone?
IMHO, the quick pace at which everything change is a major cause of this complexity. Even for professional products, for example it is already difficult to find hardware supported by redhat 6. As opposite, see the effect of stability of arduino or ne555.
I see them as a hobby for electronics people, non-programmer computer types, or just for fun for anyone. But given a choice between some cute electronic that won't leave my house and building a web or github based side project that thousands of people could potentially use, I'd go with the latter every time.
I say that after giving up on my own gaming electronics thing I was building until I realized my time could be better spent and I could buy a finished one from China for half the price.
Rather sad to read that electronics is thought of as a toy. It is the "body" which software runs on. I agree cute electronics is probably not that useful but the are many others.
For hobby projects (both software and hardware) I generally don't care if they leave my house or if one or thousands see them, that's something I do for me, not to fulfill some hypothetical need of the world.
I'd be just as happy to see my kids getting interested in electronics as coding.
I put that in quotes because its barely running, and I've basically quit.
Wealth innequality is extreme. The people who can afford it buy their own 3D printer or laser, do. The people who can't afford them, can't afford to pay dues.
Everybody wants to donate their broken junk to the space, but nobody wants to give us cash to pay the rent.
Seek out grants to start a scholarship fund to pay for people that can't afford memberships.
To cover the people who can't afford it you offer opportunities to earn credit or options
In SF, the TechShop space is sort of reborn as https://theshop.build/ Also, https://www.noisebridge.net/ is still cranking along.
Source: I tried and decided I can't make it work.
Why does that model work so well for fitness equipment and not well at all for maker equipment?
- You get access to a wider variety of machines at a gym than you can afford or store in your home. Whereas you probably just need 1-2 3D printers and power/hand tools don’t take up much space. Also, even if a makerspace had a wide variety of machines, non-members couldn’t tell you what those would be or what they’d necessarily do with them, unlike a gym.
- Working out takes 30-60 minutes. Making something takes whole evenings; that’s a lot of time to spend out. Classes are shorter but have the problem where only novices and moderately interested people want to do them.
- Working out in a room with others is social and motivating. You’re surrounded by people who look like what you’re working toward, etc. Making things with others is also social, but fewer people are used to tapping into that as a motivation to create. And highly accomplished makers aren’t usually as attractive as people in peak fitness. :)
If they could have convinced a "famous tech billionaire" to purchase Make as a vanity project / property ...
I'm guessing you meant fuse. And totally agree.
On the other side, one of the best bootstrapped DIY events is Defcon. I still remember when they didn't have air conditioning. I know it's not the same and it's not kids friendly- probably why it has succeeded.
My original point is, sometimes you just need to go big, so there is an opportunity to accomplish more. For an entrepreneur, failure is not always the biggest fear; Accomplishing too little can be a much bigger regret.
I'm sure the VCs noticed long ago that Maker wasn't going to pay back their fund, so while they may have kept looking for ways to make the business a huge success, isn't there some point where the VC cuts their losses and just leaves the business to do it's thing?
Maker has a half decent brand, and if the company isn't forced to shutdown, it is possible they could reach profitability and find a way to be a huge cash cow in the future. Or, that they would just continue on, or sell for a penance one day.
The point being, I don't think, and I'm happy to hear a good argument otherwise, that VC is to blame for the bankruptcy.
VC money gave Maker enough money that they could operate and have a shot at becoming something big. How do we know Maker could have built up what they have built without that support initially?
Think of a VR arcade at a local mall, at the point the decide not to buy new equipment they have effectively already failed. The question is simply do they get more money from liquidation or continue running the business into the ground.
And in the case of Maker Faire / Make Magazine the vast, vast majority of the things the community members made were not products at all and therefore helping them monetize their own work was really a dead end as well. For a short while Make ran an e-commerce marketplace and I think they overestimated the supply of and the demand for products from their community. Etsy bought a similar hardware marketplace and shut it down when it didn’t perform.
In hindsight I believe the real opportunity for revenue in the maker space is education. I like what LittleBits is doing. I may not pay for an elaborate electronics kit but I will gladly pay a subscription fee to anyone that elps my kids think math and science are fun and cool and keeps them engaged when others kids are tuning out.
Instead, if you know more about a topic—which it sounds like you do in this case—please share some of what you know, so we all can learn.
Our local hackerspace tried to organize a makerfaire, and when we found out how much we had to pay to make media to use that name (I don’t remember the specifics, but it was enough to make us all reel back a bit) we ended up just changing the name to maker “fest” instead.
It’s very sad that the magazine is also dying :(, but I have always been a bit salty of make media’s attempt to own the term “maker”. Perhaps this saltiness was more common in the community. It honestly soured me against any of their products.
I still think that what they did was amazing, but there was just always that little sourness in the back of my mind when I’d recommend their publication to anybody. I think there is a lesson in there about branding. To my mind, allowing thousands of volunteers all over the world to throw “maker faires” is like a dream come true for a magazine like that. It’s a huge amount of advertising and brand association for them. If it was me, I would have put together an open set of graphics and styles for people to use at all of the maker faires, to make sure that every single one of those events was associated with my magazine.
The concept of "people who build stuff as a hobby" is not really new at all. The coining of the term "maker" is, and honestly feels a little awkward to me. However, its possible they were part of the coining of that term, so its probably okay that they tried to capitalize on it.
Maybe if we had a more general/less-branded term to use, it wouldn't feel so forced.
Like "coder" vs programmer/software developer.
'Faire' is simply French for 'to do' or... 'to make'.
What's curious to me is that the mark actual has a disclaimer (https://www.uspto.gov/trademark/laws-regulations/how-satisfy...) on "faire", the only slim element of distinctiveness in the mark.
Meaning they're relying almost entirely on "maker" to provide distinctiveness.
If the USPTO has any inkling of sense they'd realise "maker" is a standard English word that is being used for its ordinary meaning (someone who makes things), and does not give any indication of a specific origin.
You can't prevent people using common words, with their ordinary meaning, to describe their own products by registering those words (that's common across all TM systems). Any attempt to sue someone for running their own maker fair using the words maker fair should be dismissed by asking the judge to look up the two words in the dictionary.
My subscription lapsed just about every year for some glitch or another and they were unable to convert any of the gift subscriptions which should have been very easy sales.
My opinion about supporting Make Media changed after the RealSexyCyborg incident in the winter of 2017:
Bunnie Haung (who I met at a Maker Faire set-up day) vouched for her and Dale still persisted in slandering her. I let my subscription lapse and quit going to the NYC Maker Faire. 2017 was the Maker Faire highest attendance and has been declining since then.
Thanks, the damage was and is pretty bad- and long-lasting. But, "be like water" and all that. I'm slowly pivoting to hardware development. Studying welding and CNC operations now also.
But- as far as business dealings with Make my one direct experience, in an area I'm qualified to talk about is that their China strategy was simply awful. Just textbook how to fail in China. They chose a Chinese partner that did not understand Maker culture, was incentivized to not support it (even curtail it), and let them run the Make brand into the ground during a time when billions of RMB was going into Maker initiatives:
Not just government grants, but parents willing to pay generously for after-school hands-on activities that cultivate creativity. Lego absolutely nailed it, they were and are the model for Make to follow:
I told Make all this last year. Even with all the shit they pulled- I want Chinese kids to have something better than factory jobs making shanzhai shit. I will talk to Make or anyone else if it means more creativity here. I am a true believer- I would make a lot more doing literally anything else if I wasn't.
I offered to get Make legal representation, connect them with the investors that were asking for an introduction- just at least hear them out. Nope. Patronizing and dismissive. They were convinced their current Chinese partner had "lots of guanxi" and had it all figured out. It was a huge, huge missed opportunity for absolutely no reason at the absolute height of demand. Now, of course, the Maker market has cooled off: http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1003171/made-in-china-the-boom... and things would be much harder.
Make seems to make very bad business decisions, driven by enforcing an in-house ideology and social hierarchy that really has no relation to the Hacker ethic at the heart of the Maker movement.
Keep at it, you are setting an amazing example here. Very good luck with it all.
edit - if you are pivoting to hardware development, get one of these; http://www.latticesemi.com/en/Products/DevelopmentBoardsAndK...
use this on it; http://www.clifford.at/icestorm/
and this is where you can find some useful modules - https://opencores.org/
Is some of the most fun I have had in ages in making tech do weird shit. I currently have a stepper motor rumnning over optic fibre as the first stage of my new 3d printer build.
This is becoming more and more common. Adafruit is another example, really good IP protection in China so no one has knocked off their boards. I have a Chinese IP lawyer I recommend who is great at this, but unfortunately most foreigners feel American IP protection is sufficient so won't spend the little bit it takes to protect themselves (better) in China.
Could you please (briefly) elaborate on these protections or point me in the right direction to look, ie articles and/or search terms? I mean absolutely no disrespect but as a westerner without any real knowledge of China I only know the stereotype of China being like the wild west where everything gets ripped off. I'm happy to do some research to learn more about it if you could advice me where to look!
No offense taken! It seems crazy but things change fast- and yes we still steal loads of stuff and tend not to respect IP not registered in China. I have not found a really good write up in English, I've been meaning to get together with some local friends and do something. But yeah- totally ok to be skeptical, we don't have a stellar track record
Muaa Haaa Haaa. Good stuff. CNC is awesome. :)
Seems to turn into a huge (fun) time sink, but expands out the possibilities for creating things.
Looking at your video list on YouTube quickly, it seems like good initial learning:
If/when you're up for a more full-on CNC system - without getting crazy expensive - the Shapeoko 3 is very, very good:
* https://community.carbide3d.com/t/hardcore-aluminum-milling-... <-- stuff done by someone who really knows what they're doing (not me ;>)
Personally, I started with 3D printing too (FlashForge Creator Pro), and moved into CNC after hitting frustrating limitations with that.
Haven't gotten into welding yet (it's on the ToDo list), as no backyard or shed here to do it in. Ugh. :/
In theory, I should be able to find a Maker type place nearby, but haven't investigated that yet.
Any idea if there's an equivalent to the Shapeoko in Shenzhen? eg high quality, but low cost
So far, all I've seen online is the same cheapo stuff (low quality, low cost) that appears in any kind of Ebay search for CNC. o_O
There is an event going on https://imgur.com/a/5w3P8l4
Shenzhen maker week has no relation to maker fare, but it seem to have surely overtaken it
This exactly -- of all the magazines I subscribe to, Make has (had?) the worst subscription department by far. It was surprising given how important a subscriber base is.
FWIW, Dale finally apologized:
Most of the pain in the world is caused by this attitude.
It looks to me that these people (this Dale figure, the Vice reporters etc) aren't impossible dickheads who belong in jail, but well-meaning people who made (grave) errors in judgment. They deserve "comfortable lives" just like everybody else. I bet you've made grave errors in judgment once or twice. I sure have.
(little sidenote: I don't have a strong opinion about this particular debate. I didn't dive deep, I don't know who the key players are. It seems to me that Naomi Wu is obviously the victim here, so I'm on "your side"- but that doesn't mean I agree with your hardline approach)
Dale genuinely could not fit me into his cognitive framework. He was an older guy who'd grown up on "Chinese can't be creative" which there is some truth to- it's really, really tough for us. What tripped him up is numbers- 1.3b of us, our outliers are...well like me. I am unlikely in a small pool- in a large one me, or someone like me is a statistical certainty. He made a mistake- and some people behind the scenes with other motives and their own prejudice who encouraged him to speak up and act on that mistake.
Vice knew. They made no mistake, no confusion, no misunderstanding- it was spelled out for them. Examples were provided of people in very similar situations and what the consequences were. Vice was flat out willing to subject me to state action for the sake of giving their story a "hook". Dale was, at absolute worse a prejudiced old man in a position where that prejudice did a lot of harm- Vice had multiple people involved who fit every definition of sociopath.
That's not true. I've met Dale, and the impression he makes is of a very humble, quiet and kind person. My understanding is that he gets along very well with other Chinese makers.
His conflict was with you, specifically, not with all Chinese people, and it's in very poor taste for you to try to turn this personality conflict into a racial or gender issue. You've done this often in your many online spats.
Some people don't share your attitudes, unfortunately. You can see this since they tried to make Wu's life as uncomfortable as possible, with no qualms whatsoever, all out of extremely fuzzy, purported "mistakes" on her part. Yes, Dale did finally issue a clear and complete apology so that issue was resolved to everyone's satisfaction, but let's be clear on how extremely rare that attitude is. Most conflicts tend to simmer because those who are in a losing position will never want to admit to themselves that they're losers, and change their ways - instead, they will keep behaving as "impossible dickheads", entirely by their own choice. Being naïve about this doesn't prevent or resolve conflict; it encourages more conflict since everyone sees how weak your reaction is to being bullied.
It's perfectly possible, and much more constructive, to write that you think this Dale is a dickhead without "never forgive" and without denying him a "comfortable life".
Bullies are not going to stop bullying because someone on the internet thinks they don't deserve a comfortable life. At the same time, perpetrating the idea that mistakes ought to haunt people for the rest of their lives, that forgiveness is a weakness, is actively harmful and makes culture more hateful. Plus, you're making a discussion more inflammatory to absolutely nobody's benefit.
The real assholes are IMO the Vice people, and Patreon:
There's a whole untold story- but Make contacted Vice, which was what caused all the subsequent events.
> [...] Maker Media, the company behind crafting publication MAKE: magazine as well as [...] Maker Faire, [has laid] off its entire staff of 22 and pause all operations.
I've got a list of things I want to make as a result of reading Make Magazine that would last me 5 lifetimes. If this is, indeed, the end, huge thanks to the entire crew at Maker Media (and the hundreds that contributed to Make Magazine over the years). You did what you did as well as it can be done.
“We’re trying to keep the servers running” Dougherty tells me. “I hope to be able to get control of the assets of the company and restart it. We’re not necessarily going to do everything we did in the past but I’m committed to keeping the print magazine going and the Maker Faire licensing program.”
The Faires were licensed and should have been cash cows (I see local one is still selling tickets).
On the other hand I never understood why that had so much focus on kids stuff. Of course it's easy to get attention from kids as long as things move, blink etc. But this stuff isn't really sophisticated, neither are the associated workshops - of which there are plenty.
If you think about it, it makes no sense because kids don't have money and complex projects require actually a lot of planning and deep understanding of the topics involved.
I think they should have focussed on more advanced projects. In fact a lot of projects both at Maker Faire but also in the Maker scene in general are quite unfinished. This can be nice when it comes to art but technical projects are most interesting when they reach MVP / release status.
I much prefer the repair-and-reuse end of maker culture.
I subscribed to Make for a few years in the late aughts but let my subscription lapse because I stopped having time to tinker. It was a great medium to learn until it wasn't.
I suppose many events coalesced over the years leading to its shuttering
- proliferation of YouTube DIY
- shuttering of print media and electronics stores
- cost decrease of prefab devices
- cost decrease in means of production
- bundled kits
- "democratization" of means of production (3d printing, etc)
- Make attitude shift from "hacking" to selling you shit / custom brands
This sucks for the maker community and Make folks but is a serious win for anyone still soldering on or trying to foster the hacker / maker mentality.
He won bits and pieces like Minecraft Mod of the Month, the school EMITS (STEM) prize, at a school that specialises in it etc etc
I thought he was going to program games, but he has decided he wants to be an electrical engineer (which I am) still not sure of the exact motivation, I have a pretty good life with lots of interesting work, maybe he hopes for that.
But, if he wasn't so highly motivated towards computers, I think I would tell him to spend the equivalent time he would spend getting a 4 year or 6 year EE degree and learn to make fine hand crafted shoes. Send him to Florence. Some big money in custom shoes if you build a name and quite rewarding if you like that sort of thing.
An Arduino isn't going to keep my feet warm, dry and stylish, for $800 (or even $5000 in extreme cases) a pair.
And that need isn't going away because Arduinos exist.
We're interested to see what fallout this has on such local gatherings, whether they will continue or not.
Whoa, what? Okay, super interested in this. Especially after seeing so many local schools and universities auction off or scrap what probably amounts to tons of old-iron textile processing machinery.
Please let me know if you have any relevant links! Would appreciate muchly.
(She also has a collection of antiques she has picked up over the years.)
But really, you can find most of the links you would want if you search for: "circular sock knitting machine"
There are videos on Youtube of the old machines being used.
Vintage Sock Knitter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7N7hsho4Sjg
Now most of the things I make are electronics with mostly a CPU, and some way to talk to the remote device but 90% is code. Woodworking is via either my own tools, or a friend's shop.
I'm on the board of a Maker group and our two big things is rental (pontifier's comment) and our insurance. It's sad to see people pay $400 for an Apple Watch and then whine about a $10 a month shop fee.
Interesting thing is Public Libraries are becoming Maker Spaces (not a TM) with printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, etc. Our county built a new library with an "innovation center" in it with all this stuff.
A local museum runs a "Fair for Makers" (again not a TM) that this year had 22 exhibitors in their main building and about 40 outside. Also had craft brew and food trucks, all for $5 a person. No fee to present so it was a nice day for everyone.
Sorry to see them go out of business, I think they started something very cool.
Extra salt to wound: and what kind of profit/revenue/result is it going to generate other than the fact that it consumes power? The more I look back at the maker movement, the more it looks a structurally self extinguishing fire.
Other cities are doing better. Usually because of government support. "We need to retrain workers" arguments play well in industrial cities.
The original Menlo Park TechShop had skilled people doing hard stuff. People making things for the X-prize. People from Stanford who needed more machine tools than Stanford had. People from startups. Gradually that declined. Stanford and Google got their own in-house shops. Then there was the "Etsy crap" era - people using CNC laser cutters to make "hand made" stuff to sell on Etsy. At peak, TechShop SF had eight laser cutters going almost constantly. That died when Etsy removed the requirement that you make it yourself.
Today, maker spaces seem to be mostly learning centers for teenagers. The "STEM" or "STEAM" thing. That's fine, but it's a branch of the college prep industry.
NYC has two larger places I know of that basically follow this model. One is subsidized by a community college and is aimed more at professionals (companies, artists, etc.). The other opened a new location (took over afaik the techshop location that lasted a whole week) in a heavily government subsidized building.
Especially in cities with mostly apartments, traditional wood and metalworking hobbies are infeasbile due to the size of the tools. It's also inefficient to own them individually if you're using them 3 hours a week.
Make sure the maker space has everything your high school shop class did, market it that way, and you draw in an entirely new demographic to keep the site vibrant and fiscally healthy. There's plenty of opportunity for cross-pollination-- I could imagine someone coming in to use conventional power tools being apprenticed into using CNC equipment or 3D printing to achieve the same objectives, or the electronics enthusiasts pairing up with the metalworkers for custom panels and cases.
Farther out but an awesome space and a bit less intimidating is Hacker Lab in Sacramento https://hackerlab.org/
We've had more than a few Tech Shop refugees over the past few months/years. Noisebridge is great, and both of our spaces definitely have unique feels and great communities built around them.
I wandered into the space some 5 years ago and what stood out to me echos what above commenters have said - there is a definite air of don't-buy-what-you-can-build or repair within the maker sphere that spoke to me.
While there are plenty of edu institutions and private industry shops out there that have all the equipment we do and more, the community here of folks from different experience levels, background, etc. really makes makerspaces unique.
When Hacker Lab showed up there were only a small handful of coworking spaces in the area. 7 years later, I can't throw a stick without hitting one. I feel part of our survival has been going for breadth - coworking, hackathons, and makeing can all benefit from eachother.
That said, I'm as anxious and unknowing to see where this maker thing goes as the next person.
In addition, there's an interesting phenomenon in the maker community that a lot of people think IP (models, designs, plans, etc.) should pretty much be given away for free, which limits revenue opportunities.
[Edit to add info in case anyone comes across this in the future]: The #1 issue is actually rent in a lot of cases. There's a conundrum where the people who most want to use a maker space are the same people who want a maker space in a place with high rent (i.e. in a desirable urban area). On the flip side, people who have their own garage / shed / yard are generally much less in need of a maker space (which would be in a cheaper area to serve them) since entry-level prices for most tools have gotten pretty cheap in recent years.
Next is labor cost. If you're not paying yourself a decent salary for your time, you're basically cheating yourself into thinking your maker space isn't losing money. Realistic labor cost should run you at least double prevailing minimum wage in the area for the hours you're open, probably more if you're counting on people to help students with things like CNC machining.
Next up is tools & repairs cost. You can actually get decent tools going for less than you would think if you don't splurge for name brand everything (especially printers, CNC mills, laser cutters, etc.), but if you're open to the public, the public is going to break your stuff. A lot. And you're going to have to fix it or pay someone to fix it. A lot.
Then there's all the ancillary stuff like electricity (likely to cost more than you think), insurance, accounting, payment processing, marketing, etc. etc. Basically, if you want your maker space to make money like a business you have to treat it like a business and that means a lot of overhead.
In short, I don't recommend anyone start a maker space with delusions that it will make money. It probably won't. Only start a maker space if you and a bunch of your friends are all willing to pitch in every month to have a cool place to hang out and work on stuff.
These are the people who also have enough money to actually spend on "doing stuff", but for whom going to a "dedicated space" (away from the home/family) to do it can be a huge inconvenience.
Contrast that with maker focused businesses like Sparkfun and Adafruit.
A few examples: https://library.pflugervilletx.gov/services/pfab-lab, https://www.chipublib.org/maker-lab/, https://ignite.hepl.lib.in.us/, https://www.jocolibrary.org/makerspace
I’ve also considered starting a community makerspace in the west end of town, a coop or some sort of publicly funded model. This comment section is a good reminder that we had better have a solid operations plan in place for it to be a success.
I don’t see cities investing the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would take to build out a maker space, not to mention the money to staff it, run the training courses, maintain the equipment and pay for the insurance.
I was always unimpressed with Intel's high budget spectacle (run by an external marketing firm) and I have to conclude that the indie portions of the maker faire, which aren't particularly cost-effective, are ultimately the most interesting parts. I saw a guy who built a self-solving rubik's cube- servos inside (https://hackaday.com/2018/09/24/self-solving-rubiks-cube/) and met with people who grind their own telescope lenses, etc, etc, and have tons of admiration for their passion and abilities.
With all that said, Make was never particularly well-run and we kind of saw this coming over the years.
- Making my own T-shirt through a heat press
- Watching battlebots fight live in person. I got to see how battlebots were maintenanced and designed. And take a look firsthand on how the Kraken (one of the battlebots) was built from prototype to what it is today (it uses a air compressor which is kind of weird)
- Seeing all sorts of cool cosplay
- really interesting side projects - micro-3d photography and photo stiching of insects, 3D gif makers from 30 cameras in a single room using python, arcattack music from tesla coils, zoetropes, etc
- K-12 local community projects - kids were teaching adults how to solder, make DIY type of stuff, etc.
There's lots more to be said but makerfaire is one of a kind
If you want lots of mechanical power in short bursts, compressed air is a winner, because compressing air is a very good way to store lots of energy that you can release quickly, and it can be coupled into mechanical action without bulky coils.
Industrial tooling (you've heard air tools in your local auto shop, probably) and heavy robotics love the stuff.
The big downside is noise, which explains why you might not encounter compressed air in your day-to-day life, even though it is every bit as fundamental as, say, high voltage power transmission.
Also they got a cool logo and have their own font-face
This should be able to pay for 22 staff.
Yeah but they are averaging 10k views a video- which is what you would expect from a channel of about 100k subscribers, and they've never really had the views that are typical of 1m subs, so probably something is up there.
The exit clause is "don't take VC money if you want to run an ongoing business". Otherwise, the buoyancy of a somewhat profitable business is sunk by the history of leverage, debt, and expectation.
When the subscription expired I didn't renew. This makes me so sad to see now - I feel like there's a world where I would have been extremely into this culture, and I feel like not having this publication around will prevent others from becoming that.
On a recent visit to SoCal, I saw a billboard for the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. I haven't been in years, I'm no longer a local, but I was happy to see it still going more than 30 years after I first heard of it. Hopefully it's still as much fun for people experiencing it now as it was for me back in highschool!
Why would you set a target so low that meeting it still results in bankruptcy?
Are there any VC out there that have ethics standards around winding down a failed venture, especially towards termination of employees?
We did this. It wasn’t that hard but it required a lot of honesty. Having been through it I’m always shocked when startups fail with no warning.
Again, things don't last forever but I'm grateful for what it was, when it was.
Maybe the community has changed or moved on or matured and makerfair has served its purpose. Maybe this marks the end of an era and it's time to move onto something new. I went 4 years in a row while in undergrad but stopped attending after graduation I think because it was getting a bit stale. Seemed like lots of projects year after year were simple iterations or very similar to previous ones. Also it felt like at some point there was a transition from wow look at this funky science/tech/art project to hey do you want to buy my product?