Sunday, December 18, 2011

"A Geek's Dream Come True"

I am reading a new magazine by O'Reilly Media called MAKE: Technology on Your Time. It's a quarterly magazine put out for those who love DIY projects and according to the product description, "it unites, inspires and informs a growing community of resourceful people who undertake amazing projects in their backyards, basements, and garages." Okay, I'm not too much into DIY projects but I love reading about people who are. In the special issue I am reading (Feb. 15th, 2012), called the Ultimate Kit Guide, I found out that kits are the "gateway DIY project." They teach skills, make things more fun, are a great way for parents and kids to share something, and drive innovation. Dale Dougherty, the publisher and founder of the magazine states, "Kits also help create the kind of highly skilled amateurs who drive innovation and economic renewal....We know the next Steve Jobs is out there right now, building kits." If you like DIY projects or know someone who would, this seems like a good gift for yourself or for them. Do you build things in your basement, garage or backyard or know someone who does? I would love to hear why and how you got started.


Blogger DADvocate said...

I like DIY stuff. I've never done an intricate, large project, but do a lot of stuff myself. I guess I got started maintaining and fixing up my bicycle as a kid. I tuned up my Dad's car before I was old enough to drive.

I install components in and modify computers with no problem.

I do a lot of repair and maintenance on my cars because it saves money. There's a part of me that wishes I never went to college but became a master mechanic, or something where I worked with my hands.

I think some of it is natural aptitude. My youngest son took the stereo out of his car and replaced it himself yesterday. Never done it before, but figured it out easily.

8:37 AM, December 18, 2011  
Blogger SGT Ted said...

Have we fallen so far that people who work with their brains and hands combined are now considered the "geeks"?

10:26 AM, December 18, 2011  
Blogger Doom said...

I've been looking for something to help figure out what to do next. Now, if I could get money flow working a bit more smoothly. My good qualities don't include handling money. By the way, I do consider the idea a Christmas present. A swell one. Thanks!

2:35 PM, December 18, 2011  
Blogger vanderleun said...

"Have we fallen so far that people who work with their brains and hands combined are now considered the "geeks"?"

Well, once upon a time they were called "Greeks," but they went on vacation and never came back.

3:32 PM, December 18, 2011  
Blogger Ern said...

I have built antique reproduction furniture from kits, but, in general, I'm more of a repair and maintenance guy - overhauling bearings on my bicycles, replacing a thermostat in an oven, changing the oil and filter in my car. About the only thing that I actually build anymore is bicycle wheels.

I got my start with the Erector set that I got for Christmas when I was seven or eight years old. The fact that my father made a point of showing me how to do things around the house was also helpful.

7:05 PM, December 18, 2011  
Blogger Doom said...

My lady friend called and surprised me. She actually asked what I might like for Christmas (if it might be late). And, thanks to you, I knew what to tell her:)

As for being called a geek? I always thought that was a code-word for boys by girls. One of those passive-aggressive things that shows both a form of respect and a bit of frustration. Maybe more love/hate? Anyway, I've always enjoyed being called a geek by a girl, especially right before she asks me how to work the toaster!

Now if a guy calls me a geek on something, I feel downright honored. If he meant it wrongly though, he best be able to back it up. I'm not THAT geeky.

9:46 PM, December 18, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

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10:05 PM, December 18, 2011  
Blogger Joe said...

The descriptions I've read make it sound like Popular Mechanics used to be. (For better and worse.)

11:07 PM, December 18, 2011  
Blogger Joe said...

And didn't Byte magazine have a something-something Corner with all sorts of cool, but useless projects that nobody I knew had the patience, parts or reason to actually build.

11:10 PM, December 18, 2011  
Blogger Greg said...

I think you get started by growing up being around people who work with their heads and hands. I come from a working class sort of neighborhood in Illinois. All our fathers had regular blue collar type jobs, so we had plenty of examples around us all the time.

Then too, Scouting was a big thing back then - Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. It exposes a kid to all kinds of practical, interesting things and teaches self-reliance as well.

And our hero's were not sports figures, they were people like Chuck Yeager and Scott Crossfield, Albert Einstein. People who changed the world.

There was a great section in Scientific American back then called "Amateur Scientist". It described how to do all kinds of projects. That was a favorite read of mine as a kid. I think you can get re-prints of that section, but SA is a ghost of it's former self and is now just another liberal rag touting global warming.

Some of the high voltage projects in that section of SA helped me to build my own x-ray machine as a high school kid. Did a little of my own global warming with that.

You gain confidence by trying to build things. The more you do, the more complex things you can attempt. You can't read about it, you have to do it. Kits are a great way to gain some skills and see how things are put together in a way that isn't too damaging to the ego.

8:40 AM, December 19, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

Zoro, except for who I stole the gunpowder from, we have a similar history! I only built two rods, my cousin was really quite good at it though. I tied a LOT of flies till my vision got old. I am thinking about brewing beer again, I used to do that a lot, but I would have to buy something to put it in and a spare frig to keep it in.

My daughter and I replaced her car stereo, and it was so fun, we are replacing her speakers this Christmas. She will rock out in style!

Except for that, the only handy thing I do is digitize photos and vinyl records. Both require a bit of tweaking to work, and I hope both give the offspring some joy after I am gone.

Oh, and I make bread, but that is so ridiculously easy it doesn't count. Till you smell the bread!


12:08 PM, December 19, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

Greg, you built an xray machine?


That's way cool.


12:08 PM, December 19, 2011  
Blogger Ern said...

TMink -

I bake bread several times a week, too. Got a couple of loaves in the oven right now. You're absolutely right about the wondrous smell - nothing else smells as good as bread baking.

12:56 PM, December 19, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:23 PM, December 19, 2011  
Blogger Ern said...

ZorroPrimo -

I'm sure that you're right; unfortunately, I have no sisters.

2:18 PM, December 19, 2011  
Blogger Greg said...


This was the mid-sixties. While transistors became more prevalent in the late fifties, vacuum tubes were still being used for a lot of electronics. And really early vacuum tubes used a magnesium 'getter'. You could still find those in junk yards. Production techniques for the tubes could not get a good enough vacuum within the tube, so they sprayed the inside with a magnesium compound. The magnesium would bind with any leftover air and improve the life of the tube. If you ever see a vacuum tube with a silvery lining, that's what it is - probably have to go to a museum for that now.

Well, tubes with a magnesium getter are excellent x-ray tubes. all you need is about 400 kev at the tube and it puts out some great x-rays. Just need a little lead sheet around the tube and you're good to go.

I used a modified Oudin coil for the high voltage, which I learned about in several SA articles. Had to wind the coil yourself, but it was fun.

I got the film from Kodak just by writing to them, telling them what I was doing and asked for some film. Then I asked my Dentist to develop it for me. People are always willing to help out a kid that has the guts to ask for it, or rather they used to be.

No matter how old you are though, if you just muster up the courage to try something, you'll be at least marginally successful. Then it gives you more confidence to try something tougher next time.

2:18 PM, December 19, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:22 PM, December 19, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

Cool Greg! Actually, I have two tube amps at the moment! One for headphones and one for guitars.


4:59 PM, December 19, 2011  
Blogger Ern said...

@ZorroPrimo -

In this, as in so many other matters, (joining the Pelican Club), my brothers and I have followed the Honorable Galahad's advice and set our faces against sisters from the start. As a result, there have been no Barbie doll collections to be blown to molecules.

8:05 PM, December 19, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:42 PM, December 19, 2011  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

While I don't build things in my garage, mainly because I only have a carport, I know someone who does. She's my best friend's stepmother.

She set up this shop in her garage and makes little angel lapel pins, then sells them on the internet.

She makes over $200,000 a year.

2:55 PM, December 20, 2011  

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