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It's a great time to be a hardware hacker...
Wednesday, 29 December 2010 17:15

Merry Christmas!!!

One of my christmas gifts from my brother was an Arduino Uno, which if you don't know, is a little electronics prototyping board based on a processor chip called an AtMega. Essentially, its a complete, self-contained computer with a footprint of a business card. Now you can't run Windows and surf the net with it, what you can do is use it to experiment, automate, or interface things you would normally need a full blown pc to do. Wanna build a little robot that fetches your slippers? Sure! Want to have a display on the wall that shows when the washing machine is done? You got it.

Anyhow the great part about this, is not only are these things cheap ($30-35 for the Arduino, and most accessories around the same prices or less), but the Arduino team came up with a programming language and environment thats easy to learn, easy to use, and very well documented. You don't see that often anymore. Put bluntly, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to learn how to use one of these.

After messing with it for a couple days, it got me thinking - what a GREAT time to be a hardware hacker! Wait...isn't a hacker someone that breaks into systems? True to a certain extent, but the term "hacker" really represents anyone that can take something and modify it. Doesn't necessarily mean you're breaking the law or sitting at a computer all day. If you find a printer by the curb, tear it apart and use the motors and display for a project, THATS a *hardware* hacker.

Why is it a great time to be a hardware hacker? Simple....

1. You have modern technology like the Arduino that makes a simple task out of automating anything.

2. You have an abudance of information available at your fingertips at light speed.

3. There's an abundance of spare/scrap electronics, usually available for free or very cheap that can be salvaged for parts.

4. There's an abundance of tools available, you can get a logic analyzer on ebay for $200 that probably cost $12k new.

5. There's an abundance of NEW technology available for cheap. Toys and small appliances that cost well under $100 have crazy functionality, just look at some of the stuff Jakks Pacific puts out.

Last but not least, what this all adds up to is a crazy amount of resources that if you have an idea, chances are there's a way to implement it in a regular Joe's budget. Don't just leave it up to the focus groups and marketing gurus to provide mediocre products - BUILD SOMETHING! :-)

Here's some links to help you along the way....

MAKE Magazine: http://makezine.com/

Arduino: http://www.arduino.cc/

Robot Shop: http://www.robotshop.com/

Craigslist: http://www.craigslist.org
(Why? Go into the Freebie section and scoff up some junk to rip apart!)