The Makerbot

Today, in late afternoon, my Makerbot was delivered to my door. After paying the $140 CAD of taxes charged me by Canadian customs (rrrrggggalsdflkasjdlf!) I immediately began unboxing, organizing, and reading. I’m really stoked about this project. It is a huge undertaking for me, the like of which I haven’t attempted before. It’s true that this is a kit, and that the only real obstacle which I have not encountered before is SMT soldering, which is apparently easy with the proper equipment, but I have never before undertaken a project of this scale. This is the most money I have spent in my life, and I don’t take it lightly. I bought the kit on two preconditions. First, I will finish building this Makerbot, and it will work, no matter how long it takes. I have a tendency to take on a project, get bored with it, and then leave it unfinished, but I have vowed to myself that this will not happen. This sort of vow has worked for me in the past, and because of it I can now play violin more or less proficiently, and I’m still learning.

The second precondition is not a “precondition” so much as it is a justification. I am buying this kit, most importantly, because I want one, and because I have a little extra cash at the moment. The other reason, which is more important to society as a whole, is because this is a cause I believe in. The RepRap project is something that has fascinated me since the day I heard of it, and when I heard about the socioeconomic principles behind the project, I was hooked. I have wanted to build a RepRap robot since that day, and now my dream will come true. It sounds stupid, but I hate being controlled by organizations. I don’t mind that there are organizations, such as governments, which keep the populous, including myself, within limits for the betterment of humankind. I joke about not wanting to pay the customs fees, but I agree whole-heartedly with their purpose. What I mean by “control,” is the abuse of control, or people who have no business controlling my life having the power to do so. Corporations try to tell us what to do every day. No, I’m not saying that TV is brainwashing us, or that the CIA controls our minds. I’m saying that we are constantly bombarded with advertisements and cautions and directions that tell us how we should act and what is “acceptable”. We are told what to like and dislike and what we should buy when. I hate not having another option. Until relatively recently, if you wanted to use a computer, you either had to use Mac or Windows. There was no gray area, there was no in between. If you were savvy enough, you could install Linux (although it wasn’t easy at first), or maybe write your own operating system, but if you wanted to be “accepted” in the world, you had to use one of the two because otherwise you couldn’t exchange documents or files with anyone else if you wanted them to be able to read them. Today, I’m writing this blog post from Firefox running on Ubuntu. I’m using almost exclusively open-source software (except for my graphics driver, which was provided for Linux by NVidia), and I can create files and documents in any format I please, including formats which can be read by Microsoft and Mac machines. Now I’m in control. I’m not saying I want to control everything, but I want control over what is mine. It’s amazing what happens when you tell people about unlocking their phones. They ask you if it’s illegal, or they don’t even mention it, as if doing so would implicate them in the “crime.” I felt hesitant about unlocking phones and such until I realized that of course it’s legal! If you buy the phone, it’s your property to do with as you like, provided your actions don’t harm anyone else.

How does this all relate to the Makerbot which I now possess? Now if I want something, I can make it. I could make things before, but there were some things that were out of my grasp, and others that were within my reach, but would take too long to be worth the effort. There are still things that are out of my reach, but I feel empowered knowing that the world of creating things from plastic filaments, a world which was closed for so long, is now open to people like me. This is what my money is supporting. Maybe personal rapid prototyping is not the future, as many say it will be, but at least it’s a step in the right direction, and it’s a step that makes sense.

Note: Sadly, this business about the Makerbot means the shelving of the open source e-book reader. It’s still in the back of my mind, and I’m determined to not let it die just yet. I have an idea of how I want to create the beast, but my efforts are focussed on the Makerbot right now. I’ll try to keep the e-book reader alive, but who knows, someone else might beat me to it.


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