Makey Awards 2012 Nominee 01: Altoids Tin, Most Hackable Gadget

The nominee suggestions for the 2012 MAKE Magazine Industry Maker Awards are staring to come in. We already have some worthy candidates. One surprise nominee suggestion that we received from several people was Altoids, for their mint tins which have become something of their own category of project box in hobby electronics. We giggled at the first suggestion and then took it more seriously when we got the second. Why not? Where would the MintyBoost or our own Mintronics line of products be without the inspiration of the ubiquitous Altoids tin?

Here’s the “Story of Altoids,” as told on the paper liner that comes in some of their tins:

Altoids, the Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Mints, were first produced in England at the turn of the 19th century during the reign of King George III. Smith & Co. (est. 1780), the small London firm that developed the original “curiously strong” recipe, later became part of Callard & Bowser, a prestigious English confectioner founded in 1837.

Altoids peppermints are specially formulated peppermint lozenges many times stronger than ordinary mints. Their curious strength comes from the more than generous use of real peppermint oil, as prescribed in the original recipe developed by Smith & Co. at the turn of the 19th century.

Today, all Altoids varieties including: Peppermint, wintergreen, Spearmint, Liquorice, Cinnamon, Ginger, and Creme de Menthe are made to the same exacting standards as the original Altoids recipe developed more than 200 years ago.

Craig Smith’s crystal radio in an Altoids tin

In the hacker/maker realm, mint tins have found a home as a handy, sturdy small project box and storage container. In ham radio, they’re used for tiny low-power transmitters, and in hobby stereo, as cases for amps. Other uses include pinhole cameras, pocket zen gardens, desktop trebuchet, first aid and field repair kits, and geocaching stash boxes. 1001 geeky uses! They’ve become an iconic feature of the maker/hacker scene, so we though they were worthy of our acknowledgement.

The MAKE Magazine Industry Maker Awards (aka The Makeys) is our annual award series and ceremony honoring mainstream companies that serve the interests of makers and the maker movement. Between now and World Maker Faire (NYC, Sept 29-30) we’ll be nominating and profiling companies in a series of posts. Then our readers will vote on their favorites and the winners will receive Makey Awards at a glamorous ceremony (OK, a ceremony) at the Faire. See the Makeys landing page for more info, the four nomination categories, and a list of last year’s finalists and winners. And please share your potential nominee ideas in the comments below. Remember, this is for mainstream commercial companies who, in some way(s), serve or embody the maker spirit. We want this program to hold up and celebrate them to encourage them and others to better serve the interests of our community.

Altoids tin projects on MAKE

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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