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MAKE Asks: is a weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column sparks interesting conversation and is a way for us to get to know more about each other.

This week’s question: We all have a backburner, but some projects return to the fore quicker than others. What has been your longest running unfinished project, and why does it remain so? What needs to be done to make it complete?

I once bought a remote controlled light switch with the intent of synching up music to Christmas lights. I broke out the pins to control it and everything, but found that there was a delay of almost a second in switching it. The guts have been sitting in a box for almost five years and I haven’t finished it simply because I haven’t thought of a project for which it would be suitable.

Post your responses in the comments section.

Michael Colombo

In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens’ educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.


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Comments

  1. Thom says:

    I’ve been working on a handheld .NET Micro Framework powered game system on and off for 3 years now. Hardware’s been the major holdup. First round had a unit cost over $300, came back and got it knocked down to under $200 but that means recoding almost every part of the system. One day it’ll be finished. Hopefully sooner than Duke Nukem Forever.

  2. David says:

    In 1987 I started a wire-wrapped build of a TTL project that I had (and still have) on a breadboard. This uses two 555 times, an up-down 4-bit binary counter, a 4-to-16 decoder, and a flip-flop to light up two LEDs out of 32 in a back-forth pattern. The LEDs are bicolor (red/green in the not-yet-final build) and are lit red in one direction and green in the other. One 555 is used for the forward speed and other for the backward speed. Most of the wire-wrapping is done, but one of the TTL chips gets too hot, so I still have to sort that out. One day I will finish this and put it in a case (which I bought a decade ago).

  3. Alan Dove says:

    One of my earliest childhood memories is of my father painting the hull of a scale model of the famous clipper ship Cutty Sark. That would’ve been about 1971 or so. He’s since had the partially-completed model sitting on one shelf or another, with new components appearing on her from time to time. If he ever finishes it, it’ll probably set some kind of record for kit construction time.

  4. Here’s a bit of perspective. I don’t have any unfinished projects that began in 1927.

    http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-01/how-long-longest-running-lab-experiment

  5. Simon Jansen says:

    My Star Wars asciimation was first started and put online in 1997. I haven’t finished that yet. I recently regained the .com domain for it which I lost to squatters about 8 years ago and now I have it back thought I should start working on it again to celebrate.

  6. Rob says:

    In about 2000 I started building a mobile robot platform. I has had a couple of different drive systems, several processors including a Basic Stamp II, Pic 16F873 and currently an Arduino. It may get a Raspberry Pi soon to add to the Arduino. As for a finish date.It will never be finished. The cost of electronics is going down and power is increasing. Really must get some encoders on the wheels soon.

  7. Matt says:

    Had a 4 color neon tube custom made about 15 years ago, in the shape of a rectangle. Bought a small battery-powered transformer for it, and a couple of mirrors (one half-silvered) intending to make an “infinity mirror”. Must have packed it away for a move at some point – literally just rediscovered it last weekend. Emailed the company that I bought the transformer from (Information Unlimited in New Hampshire – http://www.amazing1.com/) to see if they still had a hookup diagram for it, and they emailed me back with one about 2 hours later. On a Sunday. Just hit up a friend who is an expert woodworker to get this thing done!

    1. asciimation says:

      Information Unlimited are a real company and still around?!? Cool! I have some of their old books. All sorts of cool devices and lasers and high voltage things. I was always annoyed because I would think “I could build that” then find they always used their own transformers with no details about the specs of them. There was just a part number to order. That was before the days of the Internet and buying anything from the US in NZ was expensive! Thanks for the link!

  8. tonyv says:

    I don’t get it — is any project EVER finished?

  9. Scott says:

    I started my Home Automation prototype in 2009 and I just got around to getting it controlled by my ATI Remote Wonder RF remote control. What I have so far – http://sparky3489.webs.com/pcinterfaceproject.htm

  10. In 1982, I had a plan (maybe even a desire) to build a 6809-based microcomputer. I had a 6502-based Compukit UK101, but the 6809 seemed to be just so much better. Two accumulators, two 16-bit index registers, two 16-bit stack pointers… Anyway, after I got a 68B09 chip, and some RAM, and some EPROMs, things like finishing my degree and getting a job got in the way. Now, it’s 2012 and I have lots of 6809 chips, lots of EPROMs and RAM, even some 6809 firmware, but still no finished machine.

  11. Myron says:

    In 1976, I was an avionics technician on F-111F’s in Mt. Home, Idaho. I began a Revell 1/72 scale model of the Aardvark, taking the time to super-detail the cockpit. I’ve hit it once every 10 years or so, but it sits unfinished at the moment in a storage unit about 175 miles from where I live now. I have a 3D printer and CNC milling machine now, so the next time I play with it, I should really be able to ramp up the super-detailing! You all know what an F-111 is, right? I mean, it’s a…front-line fighter-bomber…..What? They’re retired?

  12. TomMadeO says:

    When I was 15 years old I bought a 1955 Willys Wagon. It was pulled out of a field in Mississippi and would have made a great parts car. Unfortunately I began disassembling and repairing the old beast. She has the rather rare a “F” head 6 cylinder engine (not flat head) with 6 valves in the head and 6 in the block. Everything on her has been restored back to factory fresh…….

    It is now 20 years, a wife, two kids, and four jobs later.

    She sits quietly…patiently waiting for my return to her.

    Only glass and upholstery left to go…….maybe one day.

    1. asciimation says:

      You should really try to finish the car. Of all the projects I have done restoring my MGB was one of the most rewarding. It took me 6 years. I had to learn to weld, do panel work, paint, rebuild engines and all manner of other things but when it was all done I had something I could use and enjoy all the time. I even ended up selling my every day Japanese car since driving that just couldn’t compare to driving a classic sports car I’d restored myself. I am now hand building a even older 1938 car. It will be a sport/race car with hand bent steel tube frame and aluminium paneling and a supercharged 750cc engine. Been going 16 months now and the frame is almost ready to make nice and start skinning whilst I also work on the chassis and running gear. Engine and gearbox shall be tackled last (the expensive bits). Honestly, driving a car you’re restored/built yourself is the greatest feeling. Glass and upholstery, easy, you’ve already done all the hard bits I am sure! Go for it man!

  13. In 1837 Charles Babbage began a design of the Analytical Engine, what would be the first ever Turing complete machine. It was never completed, but a British charity, Plan 28 hope to finish building a machine by 2021, 150 years after Babbage’s death.

  14. [...] the piece Make Asks: Longest Running Unfinished Projects, Scott Snowden [...]