“[The maker movement is] as significant as the shift from agriculture to the early industrial era.” Jeremy Rikin, Wharton economist. Bloomberg Business Week, 2/16/12
Last Spring, Bill Young and I attended and participated in a conference about “Hardware Innovation” that was put on by MAKE Magazine, just before the Bay Area Maker Faire. It was an interesting meeting that was a lot of fun partly because it was held at PARC, the Xerox founded research facility that brought us the mouse and graphical user interface, just to name a few – it felt a little tingly just to be there.
The Maker Movement was popularized by Dale Dougherty, one of the founders of O’Reilly Press and publisher of MAKE magazine, and is kind of DIY with a social twist…DIWO (Do It With Others)? It covers the whole gamut of “making things,” from electronics hacking and building digital tools, to cooking and all kinds of crafts. The thread that runs through it all is that projects are almost always shared with others with similar interests, each adding their own talents and insights.
Many of these projects are hobbies, just done for the joy of sharing what they create with others, but some evolve into businesses. Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired magazine, became interested in autonomous flight during a weekend with his daughters playing with an RC plane and a LEGO Mindstorm robotics kit. He created the DIYDrones web community to share what he was working on with others, which grew into the business 3D Robotics to supplies parts and kits to the DIYDrones community. His new book, Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, ranges from the invention of the Spinning Jenny to the current state and promise of “micro manufacturing”, comparing the “atoms” of the Maker Movement to the “bits” of the Open source software movement
The conference was a celebration of this “Maker” movement and the growing re-popularization of D-I-Y and just doing hands-on stuff – Make Magazine itself feeling like a Popular Mechanics of the 21st century. But it also emphasized the way in which new technology tools are making it possible for individuals and small manufacturers to again become competitive … our goal for 100kGarages. Here’s video of the publishers of Make talking about the conference.
If there was a down side to the meeting, it was an excessive emphasis on additive digital fabrication – 3D printers. Don’t get us wrong, we’re all for 3D printers and love the way they have inspired people to think about the new amazing things that can be done employing the continuum from digital design to digital production. They can also print some interesting stuff. But the reality is that it is the tools for subtractive digital fabrication (CNC mills and routers, laser cutters, plasma cutters, vinyl cutters, etc) that have become increasingly affordable and allow small shops to do high quality production of the stuff of everyday life. Here’s video of my talk on that theme.
There’s another Hardware Innovation event planned for this coming May 2013, associated with the Bay Area Maker Faire. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this growing movement, and where you see things headed. Feel free to add your comments.