Bridging the Gap

Posted on Wednesday 28 February 2007

I have major jet-lag and am sitting in the lobby of the Radison in Sunnyvale. What has me thinking is this time that we’re in now of accessibility to inexpensive tools and an easy transmission of knowledge. This is a new era of the “everyman” inventor, people are allowed to tinker and experiment in new and easier ways. We are celebrating it in Make magazine and hotbed universities like NYU’s ITP program and MIT media lab. We have a new respect for building things again and in even more numbers. This respect is often grounded in the past in something that might be called “RetroFuture”, looking at the old methods can be a catalyst to new solutions and explorations.

Nick Sear’s incredible machine, the “the Orb” is both future vision and high art at the same time.

I stumbled across Matt Cline who built a “Spark Gap Transmitter”, for the extended explanation of what this is you can look at the wikipedia documents on it here:

Basically it is a forerunner of wireless telegraphy, by the emission of a powerful spark controlled by a telegraph key and using morse code. The CW signal can be picked up for great distances.

This hobbiest tinkerer constructed the old 1920′s era mechanism to recreate old ways of communicating. Here is a video of his creation, be advised that there is action near the end so hang in there:

So, where is all this going? Well, it is hard to tell… But it is encouraging that in a nation with such a large trade deficit because we no longer manufacture goods in the same quantity that we are still making physical things. The status of inventor as an “expander” of dialog and knowledge is being elevated again. So keep making, but think of how these objects can solve new challenges and look to past inventions and imagine what Edison or Morse would have done with our tools and access.

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