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Things Come Apart (toddmclellan.com)
166 points by bookofjoe 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 40 comments

A significant portion of my childhood was spent taking things apart and (sometimes successfully) putting them back together. I'm curious if that's still possible - the kinds of things I took apart (telephones, computers) are significantly less possible, but it's entirely possible there are alternatives I hadn't considered filling that niche.

That was my favorite activity when I was a preschooler and still remember sometimes the sheer panic I had when I took something too complicated apart and couldn't put it together. But most of the times I'd manage to figure out the puzzle back into one working thing. Worst problem I had was with screws of different sizes, sometimes I'd fit a square peg into a round hole.

I fondly remember how I electrocuted myself a few times too! One of my first stupid things I did which I still remember was to cut off a plugged clothing iron (with a metallic scissors). Maybe it's safer for kids nowadays but they're missing the real fun.

> A significant portion of my childhood was spent taking things apart

Only after years I realized how kind it was of my parents to allow me, without saying anything, to take their first cassette player (and other stuff) apart.

After I took apart our new VCR my parents started buying me junk electronics from thrift stores explicitly for this purpose.

Perfect. I hope you put the VCR back. My parents' cassette player did well with one gear missing until I figured it out how to put it back completely.

They're more virtual than mechanical, but some of the PMV (Pony Music Video) genre involves taking apart broadcast TV shows and putting the shots back together, beat-matched (and sometimes even lip-synced) to music.

e.g. the two different interpretations of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kISjRO3L2U and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsWAZGCDJ0Y

Is this still a thing? I assumed it was rapidly dwindling by S4

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=pmv&sp=CAI%253D gives me many recent ones, with result details in latin, cyrillic, kana, and maybe even hangul. (no hanzi or nastaliq, but my bubble may not be extended very far in those directions, and just judging by thumbnails, "PMV" seems to mean something else in indonesian)

Edit: many hanzi-labelled PMVs on https://so.youku.com/search_video/q_pmv?searchfrom=1 (I found the sort dropdown, but don't know enough hanzi to search by date there.)

e.g. https://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNDc0MzY2NDIzMg==.html

Telephones and computers come apart just fine! The tools and techniques involved might be different, but there's plenty to learn with prying apart a mobile device.

While there is plenty to learn, I think there is a difference for a kid taking apart a modern LED TV versus an old CRT, or an old computer versus an iPad.

The concepts used to operate a CRT or VCR or even an older computer would have been easier for me to figure out and poke and prod as a child than newer devices which operate on microscopic scales with everything integrated. I would think a child today would need much more background and reading before they could begin to comprehend what's happening in an iPad versus looking at something that moves, and manipulating it to see what happens. Or at least test things with a multimeter.

I think it's fundamentally the same today as it has ever been, just operating at a different level of abstraction. Once upon a time, making a screw or a nail was a significant undertaking. Now it's something you buy at the hardware store for, quite literally, a dime a dozen. Nowadays the abstraction level has moved up from nails and screws to CPUs and SOCs, but you can still obtain components and assemble them into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Turning a RasbPi into a DIY laptop with a keyboard, external storage, and display is a project well within the reach of a child today and every bit as worthwhile as futzing with the gears in a mechanical clock. IMHO.

The base requirements are higher to get into tinkering, which reduces the probability of a child tinkering (my conjecture). Although, perhaps that’s mitigated with the increased ease of accessing that info online.

For example, I could take apart a VCR with a couple basic tools and no input from my parents (who were always busy working and didn’t know English). But I might have needed some guidance on where to get started with a Raspberry Pi and obtaining one, guidance I never would have received from my family.

Sure, but you also have the internet at your disposal, which you did not in the day of the VCR.

Of course not as quality but https://www.reddit.com/r/knolling/

Great video by tom sachs, Always be Knolling


For a moment there I thought this would be about this seminal Nigerian novel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Things_Fall_Apart

I assumed it was a play on the Yeats poem from which that novel took its title.


And this is why we read HN. Thank you stranger.

You're welcome, although somebody else apparently disagreed violently enough to downvote.

came here to say this, thought it was going to be inspired by it

This reminds me a lot of James May’s The Reassembler as shown on the beeb. He re-assembles famous old-ish products from scratch such as an electric guitar, lawnmower, etc.


Zoom and right-click are disabled. That's disrespectful.

I love how thought-provoking this is. I forget when using a device how many elements work together to help you achieve your goal.

I preferred the stills over the more explosive ones as I optimistically hope the devices in the stills are reassembled.

You'd enjoy James May's The Reassembler. https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4256hv

Thank you! I do like it

The still of the piano video is very reminiscent of Cornelia Parker's "Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View": https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/parker-cold-dark-matter...

I find it interesting to imagine this with software. Most websites today would be almost all npm modules with a small sprinkle of site specific logic tying everything together.

There's https://benfry.com/distellamap/ but I think it works better with data than code: consider the sprite sheet.

I’d be shocked at how different the tone of this would be if done with biological things.

The Expanse featured just such a scene where the alien 'life' is disassembling a body for learning purposes (warning: graphic content): https://www.oohlo.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/vlcsnap-201...

At least someone is thinking about the machines here. If only they knew what he does to them...

I'm sure the added difficulty of putting them back together again into working condition is a part of that.

Amazing! I went to the 'buy prints' link and it says it is sold out though - I thought they would be printed on demand?

These images in 3d would be amazing

The protomolecule at work?

Now do society.

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