The Hackerspace and Homebrew Computer Club

This article focuses on Homebrew Computer Club, which is responsible for the birth of Apple computers. It relates the culture of Homebrew to other “hackerspaces” such as TechShop, The Build Shop, and 3D4E who all are committed to an environment of education and knowledge-sharing.

Homebrew Computer Club

In 1975, Homebrew Computer Club was founded. Who made their way to these open-source underground introvert-centered shenanigans? A couple of names we’ve heard of, and a few we’d like to get to know more.

Menlo Park, CA is where Homebrew got its start, with 32 members strong at the first meeting. According to Steve Wozniak, this this is where “it was hip to be square” as an afterthought. The Altair 8800 was the body from where all work centered, and the Intel 8080 provided the brain. Together, hobdyists, nerds, professionals and enthusiasts alike upgraded and tinkered in this microcosm of entrepreneurs to be.

Today, in the world of 3D Printing, it was the RepRap and the Arduino chip that first provided the body and the brain to be tinkered with. Similar to the PC hobbyists who banded together at Homebrew, 3D Printing hobbyists are banding together at Makerspaces. With thanks from the 1970s era progressions, Makerspaces can now connect virtually – across networks – to pollinate innovation.

(March 1975 Homebrew Computer Club opening invite memo)
(March 1975 Homebrew Computer Club opening invite memo)

What binds these cohorts of oddball braniacs is a sense of fraternal inclusion. In an excerpt from Woz himself the motto was “give help to others”. Steve Jobs and Woz developed the Apple I and Apple II at Homebrew, demonstrating their improvements here. At TechShop, some thirty minutes from Homebrew, Love Part Robitics was founded and manufactured. A recent 3D Printing club modeled after Homebrew, 3D4E, is now a center for projects and competitions at two Southern California universities. These spaces foster the daring of creative ingenuity. Ultimately, it is the people that create and give life to the Homebrews, the TechShops, and the 3D4Es that allow the movers to thrive.

The Hackerspace

Today’s hackerspaces, makerspaces, shops, cliques, clubs — you name it — are too reminiscent of those such as Homebrew Computer Club and others like it from the 1970s to ignore the future benefits. History repeats itself; and while corporate America is sometimes touted an evil mastermind behind progression, I believe in both both the balance of structure and lack thereof. It is from the unstructured beauty of your “friendly neighborhood hackerspace” that the newest forward thinking corporations will emerge.

The Menlo Park founded company, TechShop, offers a multitude of do-it-yourself classes. TechShop offers multiple tiers of difficulty essentially aimed at providing a knowledge base to the motivated learner. Although TechShop monetizes what Homebrew offered for free, this lowers the barrier to entry for the average individual.

The company was founded in 2006, and has grown from 1 location to 8 locations today. In coordination with the JOBS Act, which facilitates partnerships with companies like Lowes and Autocad, Techshop is an interesting organization.

Another do-it-yourself hackerspace, The Build Shop, is currently a small-scale version of TechShop. It too, closely echoes the counterculture of Homebrew Computer Club. The 2012 founded LLC has much to develop, but small beginnings and a sound vision lead to big outcomes and a lasting impact.

From a strategic standpoint, Ace Hardware would do well to partner with a company like The Build Shop in Los Angeles just as Lowes has done with Techshop.

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Leave it to Founder Bryan Jaycox who opened his hackerspace in Southern California

To note, there are other free hackerspaces in the form of “meetups” as well as site-setups such as FabLabs, which was started by MIT in 2001. Currently, MIT has 147 of these locations worldwide, with 46 in North America.

Homebrew Computer Club revived as the Hackerspace

The origination of the Homebrew Computer Club in 1975 brought about great things. Today, we have an array of hackerspaces, with the recent for-profit models being led by companies such as  TechShop and The Build Shop. Additionally, non-profit open hackerspaces such as Fablabs have done incredibly well to gain, or arguably create, the footholds for additive manufacturing early in its adolescence.

Clearly, the philosophy and the impact of the open-source maker movement has progressed knowledge and outreach. The movement is picking up immense speed with the help of the personal computer, as a matter of fact., and Make Magazine all, with the help of the Internet and the personal computer support the next generation of hobbyists who will challenge the notion of possibility.


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