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07 Sep

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Arduino and Makers at atoms&bits

September 7, 2009 | By |

Help! Geekend!

Today I made an LED blink by pushing a button.

You might ask youself: Err, what? Why are you blogging this?

No, I haven’t turned crazy or bored, so no worries. What happened is that I eventually got around to getting out my Arduino:

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.

I feel like I’m somewhat late to the game, and to unpacking the little Arduino starter kit (kind of like this one) I had sitting on my desk ever since I got it at a recent Art+Arduino workshop organized by Artuino and Tinkersoup in Berlin where a bunch of folks tinkered with low and high tech ranging from little fans to bubble machines to hacked music instruments. (Thanks a lot, Arnon & Anton for putting that together, as well as Alex for pointing me that way! Plenty of photos in this Flickr pool.)

But late or not, eventually I hooked up the Arduino to my computer and wrote the first few lines of code that first made a LED blink, then blink faster, then blink when I pushed a button. Three iterations within a few minutes, that’s enough to feel good.

More importantly though, it was one of these small things that nonetheless felt somehow significant. Like the first steps into something new tend to do. So however late to the game I am, I’m psyched to eventually start my tinkering.

“For the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things.”

The quote above is Cory Doctorow’s dedicated to in his new serialized novel Makers. And my little Arduino session reminded me very much of this story (parts of which were published a few years earlier on Salon.com, where I first read them). Makers is a declaration of love to tinkering, as well as a glimpse into an aspect of the near future that could very well change the world by quite a bit: How decentralized, open-sourced production of hardware – made possible by the net as well as 3d printing and related technologies – will lead to real innovation, and how the sharing economy will fuel all that.

Just like the Arduino hardware is open source and maybe produced and hacked by anyone, the novel Makers is released under Creative Commons license so that it maybe spread and remixed freely. Starting 27 October you can also buy the bound book (amazon.com, amazon.de).

To cut a long story short: There is plenty of fun in this kind of tinkering. “Do Epic Shit” is what it says on a sticker on my laptop. It’s a quote I found in some places on the web, origin unknown to me. This is where I first noticed it. (Feel free to google the real source here.) “Do Epic Shit” is also part of what motivated me to start (along with all these nice folks) atoms&bits Festival: If you want to attend awesome events, why not start one? (Obvious though that might be, it’s one of many things that became obvious to me when I attended reboot11, one of the most inspiring conferences I’ve ever been to.) Not coincidentally, there’ll be plenty of hands-on Arduino and tinker action, too, over at atoms&bits – particularly the weekend of 26/27 September in Berlin.

Today I made an LED blink by pushing a button. Who knows what’s next.

ps. Michelle is putting together a reading of Makers at our coworking space Studio70 for atoms&bits Festival. If you happen to be in town, make sure to drop by: 22 Sept, 8pm (official event link).