Mags, Websites, Fairs Tap Tech DIY Boom - Instructables in the Washington Post
Mags, Websites, Fairs Tap Tech DIY Boom
By SETH SUTEL
NEW YORK -- What do you do when you've bolted a computer onto a remote-controlled car, hooked it up with Internet access, a wireless router and a camera but you don't have anyone to show it off to?
Just ask Mike Davis. He brought his mobile Internet access point to a meeting with other readers of Make magazine, a how-to publication for people who just love to tinker with stuff.
The 28-year-old systems engineer from Brooklyn found people who built homemade LCD displays, a clock that makes you solve a math problem before setting the alarm and a class in mastering pipe mechanics - something with many uses beyond just making a potato cannon.
Make magazine, not yet three years old, is leading a new wave of interest in build-it-yourself projects. Even as technology comes to us in packages that are ever harder to take apart and tinker with, Make harkens back to a time when it was OK to build your own radio, get under the hood of your car and open up electronic devices like record players just to see how they worked. Its Web site sells hooded sweat shirts emblazoned with the credo: "If You Can't Open It, You Don't Own It."
People seem to be catching on. In the summer of 2005, not long after Make's first issue came out, an MIT-educated engineer named Eric Wilhelm launched a site called Instructables.com with how-to instructions for all kinds of projects, while a meet-up group called Dorkbot has been springing up in cities around the country to showcase artistic, musical and just plain quizzical inventions with one thing in common - using electricity.
Wilhelm started an early version of Instructables.com while still a starving grad student because he was seeking advice about how to make equipment to support his kite surfing hobby on the cheap. The site is now nearly profitable and is seeing online traffic grow about 10 percent a month, hitting 2.5 million unique visitors in January, said Wilhelm. One of the most popular projects is the "Invisible Book Shelf," made by attaching an L-bracket to a book which you then attach to your wall, and then pile more books on top.
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