Name: Steven Goodwin
Home: London and Cambridge, UK
Day Job: Developer and CTO
How did you get started making?
I used to tinker with electronics as a child, since my dad was an electronics engineer. He built an electronic organ when I was younger, so I persuaded him to help me build a synthesizer (since I’d rather perform in a Kraftwerk tribute band than Bach!). Soon after, I discovered computers (a ZX81) and how they made it easier to control the electronic devices I was making. This lead to lots of software development and various software/hardware projects (mostly robots), until the Arduino made it possible to automate my home which was when things really took off for me.
What type of maker would you classify yourself as?
I’m a “what if” mash-up maker. I often take two things that are rarely seen or used together, and find a way of combining them by asking myself “what if” X was combined with Y or, “I wonder if I could build an X using a Y.” During that journey I normally discover other “what if” questions, leading to other avenues. The result is the unpredictable conclusion of that journey.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve made?
My favourite thing is always the next thing I plan on making! (is that a cop-out answer?)
The synthesizer is always a fond memory because I had to search my dad’s boxes of resistors in search of one that was exactly the right value for the tuning circuit, since the precision I needed meant I couldn’t rely on the printed value and tolerance value.
The bench is entirely made of chocolate (no electronics), which is so atypical of my work! Just a bag full of sweets and a desire to prove Betteridge’s law!
But the automated home is the thing I’m expected to say, so I will! There’s so much scope to make “living at home” more enjoyable and productive that I spend a lot of time thinking and making. My automated door mat was a talking point for years as it did so many things – reminding me to take an umbrella in inclement weather, timing my morning run (before I got a GPS watch), reading my calendar and messages upon leaving and returning home, and so on. Hooking it up to the Internet, so my home page was literally a home page, was definitely the highlight of that, so I could control lights (with X10, later Hue), TV (with IR LEDs), and media systems (with mini ITX units) from anywhere. It seemed like the future, especially when I started streaming that media back to the controlling device! Plus, adding my first tablet, with obligatory LCARS interface, just hyped me so much, as did adding a waterproof speaker in the bathroom. I guess sometimes it’s the little things!
In truth, everything I’ve made and published is my favourite. I don’t think I could have a favorite child, so I can’t have a favorite thing. But perhaps that was also a cop-out answer, too, wasn’t it!
What’s something you’d like to make next?
I’m obsessed by size, so something big! I have designs for a real-world first person shooter, involving a scale set of the computer game, Doom, and a drive-able webcam which acts as the eyes of the player character. I’m an AFOL too (Adult Fan Of Lego) so perhaps I’ll build a life-size model of the worlds of Ant Attack or Jet Set Willy (both ZX Spectrum games.)
In reality, I don’t have the space at home, so it’ll probably just be a laser harp.
Any advice for people reading this?
Stop reading this, and start making! Read and do as many disparate things you can, and soon you’ll start seeing connections between them, and how one technique in one field can be used to improve another. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.