Is it easier now to be a hacker / experimenter / DIYer?

In a recent blog post, EE Times editor Bill Schweber notes the passing of Norman Edmund, the founder of Edmund Scientific, and speculates on whether or not it’s easier now to be an experimenter/hacker/DIYer than it was years ago.

Those who say it’s not point out that years ago we had magazines, such as Popular Electronics and Electronics Illustrated, companies like Heathkit. They also point out that it was possible to disassemble TVs and radios for the parts and use them for your own projects.

Schweber, however, thinks that it is easier today for hackers and experimenters. He writes that ┬áthose magazines may be out of business, but we now have access to “countless user groups, informal forums, and blogs” on the Internet.

One thing he failed to mention was the hacker/maker groups that have sprouted up around the country. Here in Ann Arbor, for example, we have a group called Go Tech┬áthat provides support for hackers and makers of all stripes. You’ll find groups like this all around the U.S.

I tend to agree with Schweber that while the environment has certainly changed for experimenters, it is definitely better. What do you think?

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  1. Dave N8SBE says:

    You may not be able to tinker with as many available discrete non-SMD components by scavenging current electronics, but a number of companies have stepped into that gap by providing lots of little modules and circuit board assemblies. One example is SparkFun Electronics. Check out their wide array of stuff, and you’ll start thinking about all the neat uses you could put it to. Hack a Day is a neat blog, with all kinds of DIY stuff posted, and lest we forget, SolderSmoke has a blog and popular podcast for ham radio folks that like to “metl solder”.

  2. David Brodbeck N8SRE says:

    I agree that it’s easier now. There was a period when it was harder, between when local radio shops disappeared and online retailers hadn’t yet emerged to pick up the slack, but now you can get pretty much any part you need delivered to your doorstep.

    The advent of microcontrollers has also been a boon; it’s really upped the level of complexity and sophistication that a homebrewer can bring to a project.

  3. Rich, KE4GNK says:

    In some ways it’s easire now, because a lot more stuff happens in programmable logic. I do suspect, however, that the level of knowlewdge needed to design and build from scratch is a lot higher.

    Kit-bashing, as we used to call it, is alive and well. I do agree that SMT stuff is a lot harder to build by hand than good old PTH stuff–but as long as I have steady hands and a big magnifying lamp, I can build most anything I have time to work on.

    I think parts are more available, if you consider mail-order online sources–the days of real walk-in electronic stores are waning, at least around this area (Southern CA). Most of the brick and mortar stores still open have mainly tools and test equipment, but realistically cannot be expected to carry the massive inventory depth you can access over the internet…

  4. Whether or not it’s easier, what matters is that people are still hacking and making in today’s ready-made society…

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