Checkin’ In: Hacker Kingpin Joe Grand

Checkin’ In: Hacker Kingpin Joe Grand

Joe Grand is always getting into something interesting. He’s been a contributor to the pages of MAKE since our very first issue. The man lives the MAKE ethos for sure: “Hardware hacking is, to me, a perfect example of ‘anti-establishment’. Make a product do something it was never intended to do, add a personal touch, and make it your own. Not just buying a product and using it as is (which is what The Man wants you to do!).”

In Volume 01, he broke down the basics with a Primer on soldering and desoldering. Then, in Volume 02, he gave us one of the longest projects we’ve ever run: coming in at a whopping 35 pages, “Retro Game Heaven: The Atari 2600 PC” shows you how to cram a full-featured PC system into an Atari 2600 video game case. Just so you can get a glimpse, here’s a window into the project in our Digital Edition and some pics:


Also in Volume 02, Joe taught us how to add a power switch to an external drive. In Volume 03, he offered up the basics of reading and drawing schematics for folks just getting started. He also had articles in Volume 05 (building your own satellite dish mast), 06 (building a kit to read radio frequency ID tags), 08 (a chat with Ralph Baer), and 10 (voltage, current, and resistance broken down).

We checked in with Joe to see how he’s been spending his days and he wrote:

“I’ve been very busy lately. Let’s see. Here’s a partial list :)

I finished filming a season of thirteen episodes of Prototype This, an engineering show for Discovery Channel. That was a great way to introduce/show off engineering to the masses. It was a very interesting experience and ended up turning a lot of viewers on to the fun side of engineering, which was a nice surprise.”

[Check out his video interview with Joe, where he gives insight into his background, including how he’s actually on a Trivial Pursuit card. Also, here’s a great Prototype This! segment on creating the six-legged vehicle.]

“My backup unit (Ben) was born in October and is well on his way to becoming a young hacker. He’s a lot of fun :)”

[Yes, folks, Ben maybe a baby, but he has his own blog!]


“I’ve started Kingpin Empire, a project that gives back to the computer underground, technology, and health communities through charitable donations. In 2008, we donated just under $2,500 to the EFF, ACLU, Hackers for Charity, American Cancer Society, and American Heart Association! I know we can do better, even in this tough economy, so I’m hoping to get the message/cause spread far and wide.

I’m currently working on the DEFCON 17 badge for DEFCON. It’s the 4th year in a row that I’ve had the honor of designing the conference badge as an active, artistic electronic device. Previous years’ [14, 15, and16] work here:”


“I’m also working on some still-in-stealth-mode hobbyist electronic gadgets and getting back to my roots with some security analysis of hardware infrastructure. I’ll go public with this stuff when it’s ready.”

Thanks, Joe! Keep up with Joe Grand on his site, Grand Idea Studio. And pick up any back issues you may not have at the Maker Shed.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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