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"Mama - I wanna be a maker!!"
 ("maybe I'll get money and chicks and things!!! It's like the new rockstar!!!")
    Yea - right. A client recently told me he and his buds took up hang gliding years ago for the same reason...

Dr Bob - a physics professor turned coder
that I've been lucky to have met and worked with (you'd recognize some of the well known products/programs he's worked on over the years) PUT IT BEST:

"Maker? What the hell is that?" (I explained it to him)
"That's like putting a frozen dinner in a microwave and calling yourself a 5-star chef..."

I heard that the founder of Make was in Fredricksburg, VA not too long ago, and talked with one of the clients I have in North VA.

I just wanted to stress that in all the rush to be a "maker" one has to realize that this is not a new phenomena - it's just that in the past, there was no "instant gratification" as is now with things like 3D CAD, EDA tools, 3D printing.  I fear that:

“In the information society, nobody thinks. We expected to banish paper, but we actually banished thought.”
~~ Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park

Tho I have to say - and did so in a rant in PC Design and Fab magazine (  ) that we should be looking towards "growing" monolithic products, due to many issues (see the article).

I hope you're not offended by this, but I do have to stress that as a society in the progress towards a "hive" mentality ( this is the first time in history that a life form can transmit information/interact around the globe at near light speeds) we are suffering from what I call the "dead dick syndrome" - so bombarded and over-stimulated that we fail to recognize:

 No one really "solves" an engineering problem - one merely smears physics around until one can live with the result.

It's obvious that getting into "making" a lot of short cuts have been taken. Recently Google (and I got a letter from Khan Academy on this) had the "Hour of Code" thing.

Anyway - here's my take on all of this - and when you're in DC, feel free to stop by my lab:


It seems a lot of people do things for the wrong reasons.

What's the danger with ignoring what I'm about to say?
Ask Mr. Obama how well that Affordable Healthcare thing went... I worked with a team at  NETSEC that did a similar thing years ago.
Whomever told the President that it could be done that quick (an "hour of code" as you will) had no clue...

Here's why:
Being a coder isn't just some cool "fad" thing that the Today Show's Orange Room (more like Romper Room - [note - bonus points if you recognize the color code I used]), or Google (what a great way to start a company, what a sad thing to see what it's turned into) turns into a "sound byte" (pardon the pun).

I work with some of the best low-level coders out there. See my lab - That's Sanjay in the "Example Military Application" section, holding the same box used at Area 51 (yea that Area 51 - Google Area 51 sensors ). Been doing it for years, just like Rif, Larry (listed on Atmel's site; we were doing this a few decades before Arduino made it "cool"), and Joel, a recent find out of the thousands of kids we looked at from places like VA Tech, Mason, CMU, etc... that's actually a good coder.

For instance, that thing Sanjay is holding is something that a local Beltway Bandit tried developing for 5 years, spent tons of money on people "coding for the wrong reasons" :
... and a zillion other reasons to NOT do something.

This is similar to the Make thing.... so sad. Recall where Ian lectures Hammond in Jurassic Park? Where he mentions that:
"...The lack of humility before nature that's being displayed here staggers me..." "Don't you see that danger ... inherent in what you're doing here... you wield it like some kid that's found his dad's gun... I'll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you're using here... it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You know, you'd read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility... for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, packaged, slapped it on a plastic lunch box it, and now you're selling it..."

The same can be said with any discipline.

Here's what I recently wrote to various maker groups in DC:

"Someone needs to do a talk on craftsmanship"
In this world of instant gratification within nanoseconds, 3D printing, etc, we forget the originators of the "Make" phenom - the old craftsman.

The "make" phenomena is not new; the ability of people to get the instant gratification with little effort is.

There's a great rant on here:
Some of his work here:

Note in his rant:
"When I was employed as a modelmaker at Hughes Aircraft in the late 1960’s my “bench mate” was a craftsman of exceptional skill. Ellis Slankard, then in his early 60’s, (I was 23) had apprenticed as a patternmaker at age 12, had worked on the “Spruce Goose”, carved patterns for the DC-3 and hand carved the Presidential Seal for President Roosevelt. We would joke that “Ellis works slower than grass grows”. However, every project he worked on came in under-budget and well ahead of deadline. He was so well trained, with so much experience, that he simply never wasted a motion. He would pick up a tool, say a chisel, make a few precise strokes, put it down, and pick up the next tool. No wasted effort, and seemingly without thought, yet it was obvious to me that he had planned his work hours in advance. He was a very calming influence on a young, rather energetic, budding craftsman. Ellis is another of my “heroes”."

And check this out:
and this:
Note where he states:
"When I started to build this thing, I had no idea how I could cut such small T-slots without buying expensive cutters. I thought this might give me a convenient point to lay the project to rest, as it was started only as my first milling exercise and it didn't need to be finished. I rifled through a drawer of ruined drill bits and noticed that flutes are quite sharp....... A 3/16" HSS bit went into the 3-jaw chuck, I grabbed the Dremel flex shaft with a grinding disk affixed and in four minutes I had made a T-slot cutter."

And this was his first time using his Taig mill.

I really think that some part of your introduction to new members should include some sort of history lesson on craftsmanship.

And - as to all the whiz bang stuff in your facilities - this should be required viewing:
High priced test indicator for centering? - Naw, tap it a few times....
Fancy tool holder? Naw, just use your toes...

It's the same with electronics/embedded stuff.

I recall having a client that had this coder, a PhD, working on a project I designed... a prototype, not too terribly complex but it required some thought, planning, research.. Had the thing for about 3 weeks; got no where.

After a while, their boss had them bring the stuff back to my lab to work with me and my coder, Joel, to get it going. It was obvious that this isn't something they were really into doing, and had little experience. After I mentioned, "I see you didn't use any of the hardware control lines I put in..." I sent them both out for lunch while I hooked it all up.

When they came back, they pull up the dev environment and JTAG to it. Within minutes Joel's telling them, "OK, make sure this delay is correct, now look at PA2, etc..."

In five minutes it's up and running.

The client's coder is floored. "How did you do that so quick?" Note that this was a new uC architecture, so both had the same 3-4 weeks to learn it.

I stated - "Here's the deal. You see, if there was some hot babe, or dude [Joel interjects 'babe'] naked, sitting on a nice 40 channel Tek logic analyzer, Joel would be like, "Get your nasty ass off that gear!!'

You really have to want to do this kind of thing. Not as a cursory exercise...

I'd  have to refer to what was said a few thousand years ago - why you SHOULD do something:
Years ago, a piano mover turned me on to a great read - the writings of Tao and his students. I recently found an article on this -
 >From an interview by Scott London with Stephen Mitchell:

"Mitchell: There's a wonderful story about that in The Second Book of the Tao.
It goes like this:

Ch'ing the master woodworker carved a bell stand so intricately graceful that all who saw it were astonished. They thought that a god must have made it.
The Marquis of Lu asked, "How did your art achieve something of such unearthly beauty?"

"My Lord," Ch'ing said, "I'm just a simple woodworker — I don’t know anything about art. But here’s what I can tell you. Whenever I begin to carve a bell
stand, I concentrate my mind.

After three days of meditating, I no longer have any thoughts of praise or blame. After five days, I no longer have any thoughts of success or failure.
After seven days, I'm not identified with a body.

All my power is focused on my task; there are no distractions. At that point, I enter the mountain forest. I examine the trees until exactly the right one
appears. If I can see a bell stand inside it, the real work is done, and all I have to do is get started. Thus I harmonize inner and outer. That's why people
think that my work must be superhuman."

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