Fun & Games
Breaking into Making: A Meditation

At what point did you know you were a “maker?” Making springs from an insatiable need to learn about, dissect, and modify. For some this impulse came early, for others, it didn’t arise until later. Maybe you were the kid who could always fix a broken bike, or you dug into your family’s first PC at a young age and didn’t stop until, years later, you had graduated to making complex gadgets using physical computing.

Or maybe you were that kid who always took apart his or her toys. It wasn’t your intention to break them, but rather, a need to put them back together. You wanted Egon to commingle with He-Man. You wanted them to have adventures in both Castle Grayskull and the Ghostbusters’ firehouse. Off would come all of the appendages, a desperate attempt at integration/improvement that only sometimes worked, though how awesome it was when you discovered that certain parts did cross their plastic respective universes, when the bargain brand figurine’s arms fit perfectly on another torso.

For some, it was always natural to know this about yourself, your maker’s heart. For others, it hit you later on. The desire to make lay dormant, only to manifest itself at a certain time, peeking through as pure creation from the skill sets that school or society had kindled within you. When you played in a band, you figured out how to make the amp work, or solder the busted input on a guitar right before the gig. From those moments of necessity, you discovered the joy of making, the satisfactions of DIY, and you decided you wanted to enjoy that feeling more often.

The great thing about the maker movement is that it facilitates that awakening in people, brings out the nascent maker in us all. In the past few years, many of us have been experiencing a sort of rebirth – a sharpening of those faded lines that trace our early roots as a maker. And now you’re not chastised for it, but rather praised! Content creation and modification brought itself to light on the internet, but the popularization of creation and modification in and of itself was a necessary element of that. Once you were given platforms with which to share your ideas, those ideas burst into even better and larger shapes, a refined sense of tinkering and play.

And now, hardware hacking is the adult equivalent of taking apart your toys, and programming an Arduino is akin to that childhood desire for systematization – only now, instead of making your very own text adventurer on a PC, the adventure has come to controlling the real world. Virtually any type of technology can easily be integrated with another type, whether electronic or physical.

How lucky we are to live in the time that we do. We all either broke into making, or went from breaking into making. Which was it for you, and how did it happen?


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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