A few summers ago, at a DIY repair-off called Get Yr Fix, I watched as ragtag teams battled each other and the clock to breathe new life into all manner of dead and disused goods gathered from the streets of Brooklyn. The toddler’s three-wheeler was rad and the resurrected baby pen would have fit right into a Tim Burton version of Mad Max.
But there was also a kinda jaw dropping moment: two guys armed with little more than a soldering iron and a mutli-meter turned a couple of busted TVs into one fully fledged boob tube. “Eet’s aliiive!” one of them crowed. They didn’t win — the tricycle did — but they weren’t there to win. The duo, from the group NYC Resistor, took a kind of mad pleasure in making things better, like a cross between Bob Villa and Dr. Frankenstein. On this episode of Motherboard, we pay a visit to their Brooklyn lair.
Founded by a handful of friends who wanted a place to tinker with electronics and meet like-minded hackers for good, NYC Resistor. has blossomed into one of the country’s most influential hackerspaces. On any given Thursday night, their cozy, cluttered loft workshop is crawling with a diverse crowd of hardcore tinkerers and curious newcomers. Throwing some caution and many user warranties to the wind, they’re there to build, refine, break and share everything from toy robots to intricate paper sculpture to open source musical instruments.
On top of public workshops on topics ranging from algorithms to laser-cutting (“fiiire the laser!” is the cry often heard from the next room), the group has spawned a huge DIY following, and a number of events and offshoots to match. First among them is MakerBot Industries, a company spearheaded by three of the Resistor co-founders that specializes in kits for an innovative and inexpensive 3D printer, a “robot that makes things.”
With roots in the underground computer hacking movement — a marginal and marginalized group whose only crime, the Hacker’s Manifesto proclaims, is “curiosity” — NYC Resistor is redefining the idea of hacking while reclaiming space, skills and materials to, as Resistor co-founder Bre Pettis says, “make awesome things happen.”
This piece originally aired in January 2010.