We’ve gone past the analog days of fixing your own radio or computer. Nowadays, there’s a professional fixer for everything, and if something is broken, it’s almost too convenient to replace it. You can visit their site or store to get something fixed or replaced.
But the maker community begs to differ. Here’s a group of people who want to repair their devices and sometimes make an entirely new device on their own. It’s a whole new world altogether.
What Is the Maker Community?
Perhaps the simplest way to put it is that the maker community is comprised of individuals who share the same spirit: the spirit of creativity and inventiveness. Thanks to the internet, people with inventive and scientific minds can collaborate to create rather exciting things.
Their invention ranges from quirky retro computers to highly useful 3D-printed prostheses that differently-abled people can use. As computer components and micro motors become cheaper, more and more people are becoming interested in joining the maker community, so if you’re curious as well, here’s how you can start.
Get Familiar with Single Board Computers
We’ve far progressed from the time when computers would take up tons of space to function in a specific way. Nowadays, our smartphones can do what computers can- albeit with a different input method. But look at the tiny single-board computers (or SBC): a single PCB housing all the necessary components to run a traditional desktop system.
The maker community highly values SBCs as they can be used for a wide variety of things, from making your own dedicated retro gaming device to a nigh-magical smart mirror or even set it up as a security system. Single-board computers have become intelligent and powerful enough that they can even control other components like pneumatic valves, servo motors, and other mechanical parts. Indeed, the maker community would not have blossomed the way it has without the help of trusty SBCs.
Consume the Media
The maker community is filled with content creators sharing ideas, providing video tutorials, creating media content, and many more. One of the easiest ways to begin understanding what it’s all about is to start consuming the media that shows it.
You’ll find makers documenting their projects, showing the successes and the failures. Some even teach you how you can start your own basic project. The Internet holds a vast resource for educational and entertainment media when it comes to the maker community. Touching on that will help open the floodgates for you.
See What You Have Right Now
You can try your hand with the maker culture right now; look through your stash of old technology. Many people don’t realize that we have accumulated quite the amount of potentially configurable technology throughout the years. All it takes is a little ingenuity and cleverness to make it work.
Consider old smartphones: while they’re too slow for use and are generally useless now, they still have many non-smartphone-related functions. Even older laptops can be handy if you know how to work your way around them.
Build Your First Low-cost Project
Unless you’re an engineering genius, then your first project being very simple is perfectly fine. The older hardware you can refurbish won’t be as flexible and powerful when compared to creating something new with dedicated modular devices, but they can still work. Your first low-cost project should both be easy, cheap, and is a good learning experience.
Consider installing Linux on an old laptop and turning it into a retro-computer, either for nostalgic kick or educational purposes. You can then move on to something a bit more complex (yet still comparatively easy), like turning a smartphone into a smart mirror interface. You’ll find that there’s a lot of resources that are geared towards beginners. Many of the projects they promote require low-skill and low-budget.
Don’t forget to Meet Other Makers
Of course, it’s all rather boring if you don’t have anyone to share it with, now, would it? Don’t forget to share your projects online. It’s easy to find where the right people are; you can search for the specific project you’re working on.
You’ll find that countless others have done something similar, if not the same, and would have tips and reminders to give you. You can see their past and current projects, and they most likely have something to help you out on yours. The maker community is a friendly and social group, and meeting them through local gatherings or online forums can make the experience worthwhile.