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Hardware Hacking Build

In Praise of Hackerspaces 68

snydeq writes "Open centers of grassroots innovation, hackerspaces offer opportunities to source talent, create goodwill, and push technology forward, writes Open Software Integrators' Phil Rhodes. 'I had the good fortune to be able to attend Maker Faire North Carolina this weekend in Raleigh, N.C. ... At this local Maker Faire, I was struck by the number of hackerspaces represented. The energy, buzz, and activity around their booths was captivating,' Rhodes writes. 'Amid all this buzz, it dawned on me that everyone should be excited about hackerspaces and what they represent, both for their local communities and the world. Although the hackerspace movement is growing rapidly, many people are still not familiar with them, where they are located, or what they do. So let's examine the hackerspace world and explore why you should give a crap about it.'"
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In Praise of Hackerspaces

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  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday June 28, 2013 @02:10PM (#44135977)
    Both grandfathers had workshops, as does my dad, most of my uncles, many of my aunts, my father-in-law, and I have one as well. There were shops in junior high and high school to do woodworking, welding, automotive, jewelry, and even stained glass. The tools in our shops are certainly tailored to what we work on or what we think will be useful, but most shops have been very general-purpose; we could work on just about anything.

    Can someone please explain to me this new fascination? I find it kind of insulting, this "discovery" of tinkering is like a shadow of Europe "discovering" the already-populated Americas. People have been building things for thousands of years in their workshops without this need to call them "makerspaces"... We don't do it because we expect it to be cool to others, we do it because we like it for ourselves.

    This "maker" emphasis seems like a bunch of damn posers trying to establish and subsequently ruin a "scene"...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      These are workshops but with a twist:

      (1) Everything (or nearly) has some tie-in to technology, be it a 3D printer, a CNC mill, or what have you. It's not limited to woodworking or one type of material like a lot of shops are.
      (2) This is a self-run community, not just a workshop

      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        My maternal grandfather's shop wasn't single-purpose. He was a machinist that kept the manufacturing equipment at a Whirlpool plant running, and at home he tinkered with machines, cars, wood, etc. He hadn't gotten into electronics, but that's because that was in its infancy comparatively.

        My friends come over and we work on stuff, sometimes my stuff, sometimes their stuff, and that varies in type as well. I've assembled automotive engines from parts and I build model rockets and rebuild automatic trans
        • by ( 660144 ) on Friday June 28, 2013 @03:43PM (#44137165) Homepage

          So because you can afford a well equipped shop and already know how to use the tools other people shouldn't try and find ways to share the costs and help each other lean the skills?

          • by TWX ( 665546 )
            No, people shouldn't overinflate their own importance or ability or most importantly, results.
        • I seem to hear a note of superiority. "I've been doing this all my life, and now people are suddenly doing it, and calling it by a new name."

          So - why not find a hackerspace, and SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE?!?!?! With the set of skills that you seem to suggest that you have, you could be quite the popular go-to guy. And, funny thing about teaching - you also get the chance to learn stuff that you never realized you DIDN'T KNOW!

      • by Hartree ( 191324 ) on Friday June 28, 2013 @02:44PM (#44136345)

        And regular vertical mills or such 40 years ago somehow weren't technology? And green sand casting wasn't either?

        And the amateur radio clubs were somehow not self run communities?

        And the plans published in Radio Electronics, Home Shop Machinist and other such magazines weren't "open source" enough somehow?

        It's interesting, it's great that it's getting the fix it or modify it yourself idea out to some people who might not otherwise have it, but it's not new.

        I grew up in a neighborhood with multiple "makerspaces". They were Bill's amateur radio workbench where he built his own gear. Freddie's workshop where he built his own grinder and other power tools. Donald Vern's shop where he built midget cars to race. And Danner's auto upholstery shop where he did the interiors for his show cars.

        And that was just within half a block of my house.

        As I said, wonderful to be teaching people this, but it's not new or revolutionary.

        • Whoooosh!
          • by Hartree ( 191324 )

            Ok, I'll bite, Billy. What do you think I'm so totally missing about this that makes it all new and revolutionary?

            If it really is going to Change The World (tm). I'd love to understand it.

            • Ok, I'll bite back, it's the first sentence. See above:

              These are workshops but with a twist:

              They ARE workshops. They don't have to be new and revolutionary to be worthy of praise. Indeed, Bill and Freddie and Donald and Danner sound like awesome guys. And even though their daddies didn't have power tools, radio, or autos to put upholstery in, it doesn't make them any less awesome.

              And workshop collaborative have been around since before Bill and Freddie. The new batch simply has a twist that they're often have more programmers. Much like the la

              • by Hartree ( 191324 )

                We seem to be in violent agreement. ;)

                Actually, I just walk across the street and talk to Bill (I moved back to the house I grew up in.). The rest have moved or are long since passed away.

                Sadly, Bill has Alzheimers and it's taken a toll. Kind of hard to see him that way, but we've all got it (or something) coming, I guess. He sure helped get a number of us started in ham radio and auto work.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Can someone please explain to me this new fascination?

      They're using the trendy buzzwords.

      There is a very real trend that modern cultures seem to rediscover things about every 20-40 years. They are completely enthralled by it, and tend to ignore the elders saying "Yeah, you'll grow out of that in 5 years, like I did. Not something similar, exactly that." To which the youngers will loudly and profanely insists that this New Thing is completely unlike that Old Thing despite all the evidence that they are infact the same thing.

      It is for that reason that I have

    • It's different from a workshop in that it's also a community. People teach to make, people loan tools to each other, people show off creations. I spent about a year as a member of a hackerspace, then I moved somewhere that became less feasible. In that time, I saw some really cool technologies people had made, helped teach people a bit about writing processing code for graphics cards without using CUDA, and made use of their tech-book library.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        My friends are my community, we don't feel a need to rent space or pay membership dues, we help each other because we're friends. If someone needs to cut steel, the guy with the portable plasma cutter comes over because it's fun, not because he's being paid to provide plasma cutting services. The biggest 'payment' is whoever is being helped provides the pizza or beer or the like.

        Come to think of it, the only semiformally-established club that I'm in has dues of $15 per year, and those dues are basicall
        • But what if I don't have a friend with a plasma cutter? What if I don't have friends who are interested in tinkering at all?
        • Yeah, and you don't need coworkers either, because you have friends, right? I didn't say it had anything to do with a spirit of camaraderie, it's a matter of practicality. You can learn more, do more, and achieve things, if you can share utility. Not everyone you do that with is, strictly speaking, a friend.

      • by Hartree ( 191324 )

        "It's different from a workshop in that it's also a community"

        And Twin City Amateur Radio Club somehow wasn't a community? Sure looked like it with the older hams teaching the younger ones (including kids).

        When someone had a tower to put up, you'd get a bunch of people to come over and bring the djin pole and other tools with them.

        Sure wasn't limited to just electronics and radio, either. They were (and still are, even though some are in their 80s now) the general purpose geeks of that time.

        People have been

        • I didn't say that. Why would you assume I meant that? I just said they weren't exactly the same as workshops, the contention of the GP.

          • by Hartree ( 191324 )

            I probably read too much into your words.

            Some of the other responders have taken more of the view that this is new and revolutionary in some way.

    • You are correct in that these are just workshops. Most of these hackerspaces are close to/in cities where many of the members live in apartments with no space for a workshop. Some members are college students who move back home for the summer. One advantage of these workshops is that the group as a whole are able to purchase large items that no one member could afford (think of it like tool sharing). A hackerspace by me has a laser engraver, for instances. It must be nice to look back at your family wh
      • by deimtee ( 762122 )
        It wasn't budget cuts that got rid of woodshop and metalwork classes, it was the combination of legal liability and feminism.
        - Little Jimmy cuts his finger on a chisel, mummy and daddy to sue the school.
        - Woodwork and metalwork are mainly of interest to boys and are therefore sexist. They should learn "home economics" instead.
    • AC just below got it: it's a community workshop which sets it apart from previous endowments of the word.

    • I have my workshop ... but if I need to deal with large sheet goods, I have to move things to the driveway.

      As I understand it, these are basically like the wood working / metal working / automotive / electronics shops from high school, but either as a cooperative or a commercial enterprise renting access.

      There have been artist co-ops for years -- pottery's a big one as it's difficult for someone to do as a hobby individually with the need for a kiln, etc. For soft goods, there are quilting bees and knittin

      • by Hartree ( 191324 )

        Indeed. There have been ad hoc (and not so ad hoc, like American Assn. of Woodturners) craft and diy clubs for some time. ABANA and others have been teaching blacksmithing for a good while under this sort of model. 4H used to organize training of this type for kids when I was a younger.

        The only difference is it's using the methods and technologies of today. Just like the old ones used the methods and technologies of that time.

        I'm glad that it's currently catching on again. Hopefully the liability issues can

    • Both grandfathers had workshops, as does my dad, most of my uncles, many of my aunts, my father-in-law, and I have one as well.

      Home workshops are just like home gyms and personal swimming pools. They're good to have for you, your family, and the people you invite to, but there is still a need for public swimming pools and gyms that people can use in exchange for a reasonable fee.

      There were shops in junior high and high school to do woodworking, welding, automotive, jewelry, and even stained glass.

      May be that's the problem. In my high school, the wood workshop was a joke and we didn't have any other workshop available to us. My high school emphasized University admission and Advanced Placement classes over anything that could tangentially apply to le

    • I agree completely. The term "maker" makes my skin crawl. Aren't we special.

      • Better than the brain-dead consumers that go home and watch TV for 4 hours until bedtime.

        There's actually a bit of a schism at our space. Most of them want to use the term "makerspace" simply to get away from the term "hackerspace". Not that there's supposed to be anything wrong with being a hacker... but there is. While the "maker movement" is kind of a push against the throw away consumer culture that has developed in the USA, some fights aren't worth it. "Hackerspaces" simply bring up too many awkward ex

    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      I agree to a big extent to what you said. Actually, for a long time, my father's garage had better tools than my local hackerspace. Then, their community grw and they now have a big-ass CNCs, several 3D printers and a nice laser cuter.

      I think that the main difference is the idea of sharing designs and making open hardware. When my grandfather repaired a pump with a nifty trick and two screws, he did it once, never told to anyone. Now when a member in a hackerspace unbricks an obscure flashable wifi route
    • by mj24 ( 143239 )

      Two things:

      1) An accumulation of best practices that the Internet provides,
      2) An ability to go from idea to prototype in a short time with low cost/effort.

  • I've been a TechShop member for years. I've been a member of Hacker Dojo. I've visited Noisebridge.

    These places are fun, but they're not changing the world. It's good to have more people using tools. But the work there isn't that impressive.

    TechShop is basically a workshop. Lots of people make furniture, repair their bikes, or build some cool toy. It's not a startup incubator. There are startups who send their people to Techshop to use the machines, but they're not based at TechShop. Most of the people

    • Remember all the fuss about whether you could change the batteries in phones? The direction of modern manufacturing is towards things that you cannot practically build or repair yourself.

      Some of the things done in hacker spaces (or described in Make magazine) do seem very kitsch (as in the finished result is not worth the material and time put into it) but that is not the point.

      People are making and repairing things.

      What is the point of Raspberry Pi? Not a very good computer. What is the point of writing

    • Yeah yeah, 90% of everything is crap. [] Most of it is entry level beginner stuff. Most of it is LEDs blinking. Most of everything is crap.

      But where the hell do you think those guys at Willow Robotics started?

    • by TheSync ( 5291 )

      My experience with Crash Space [] in LA has been that it has created a whole bunch of new stuff:

      FlipBookKit [], a Kickstarter-funded project, started there.

      The bGeigie nano [] radiation detector (a part of Safecast.Org []) was developed there, as well as products from ThingM [] such as the "blink(1)" USB-connected programmable status LED and the "blinkm" programmable smart 3-color LEDs.

      Members of Crash Space have also shown up on TV shows such as Unchained Reaction [].

      Crash Space has several folks whose full-time job is work

  • My post 3 years ago: []
    "Why Is This Idea Important?: This project is essential to US national security, to provide a technologically literate populace who has learned about post-scarcity technology in a hands-on way. The greatest challenge our society faces right now is post-scarcity technology (like robots, AI, nanotech, biotech, etc.) in the hands of people still obsessed with fighting over scarcity (whether in big organizations or in small groups). This project w

  • The difference between a hackerspace and a workshop is huge. The key difference is the community, it doesn't belong to anybody so anything goes, it's like hippie commune meets workshop meets research lab minus the proposals and endless journal paper spewing. It's not so much about making the tools available (like techshop does), but more about building a group of engineers, tinkerers, and technodweebs to hang out with after work is over.

    Yeah there's a weird maker movement thing that people are pushi

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Then I realised "hackerspace" has nothing to do with 'hackers' putting satellites into space to create their own internet.

    • I think it's page two where the mention this as one sub-groups Big Hairy Audatious Goals... so you wouldn't be as disapointed if you'd RTFA!
  • My 'local' hackerspace ( in a town about 10 miles away ) is expensive; basic membership [] is 25 UKP per month just to enter the place. And that doesn't cover costs of events or projects.

    Hackerspaces might be good value for a student who could call in every evening, but for middle-age wage slaves who could avail once or twice a month it's uneconomic. But perhaps we're not their target demographic.

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