Nick DeWolf: Aspen Maker

On July 10th, we’re organizing a Mini Maker Faire in Aspen Colorado, in association with the Aspen Big Ideas Festival. We’ll have some folks from SparkFun, SF’s Exploratorium, the Denver Mad Scientists Club, Lynne Bruning’s wearable technology, the Cellbots project, MAKE writer John Maushammer, and a lot more. We’ll be at Gondola Plaza from 10am to 3pm next Saturday. Come by and make an LED Throwie or launch a rocket.

After hearing about the event, Bradley LaBoe of New York, wrote us about a well-known maker from Aspen, Colorado: Nick DeWolf. He thought we should dedicate this Aspen Mini Maker Faire to Nick and celebrate this Aspen Maker. DeWolf was not only someone who had a place in computer history but he had an impact on a group of young kids, including Bradley, by introducing them to computers at early age.

“In 1977, I was given the maker-tech-hacker-geek bug by Nick DeWolf,” wrote Bradley, recalling that DeWolf was “the prototype of a maker and a maker of prototypes.” DeWolf, an MIT grad and a co-founder of Teradyne, moved from Boston to take up residence in Aspen. There he designed the ON! computer system, which featured booted up instantly. DeWolf is shown proudly holding his ON! computer below.

28 the ON! System by Nick DeWolf Photo Archive.jpeg

From Nick DeWolf Photo Archive.

Bradley writes:

He held a class where we learned how to solder and basic electronics. Then, as the Aspen Computer Society, we went on to build and program Z80 S100 computers, which cost more than a VW car at the time. From him I learned that technology and computers must be driven by a purpose …in this case art and fun!!!

In the Nick DeWolf archives are some photos of these kids as a group looking over the components of a computer. (Bradley Laboe is the dark-haired kid at right.)

Bradley says of these kids now as adults: “Almost all of us work in the tech/computer industry or are artists of some type.” He is a Systems Architect for a company that does film and video special effects. “Nick’s philosophy’s have been key to my career,” he notes, sharing in particular these two quotes:

“Nothing is impossible for those who don’t have to do it themselves.”

“It’s never just a!!!!… it’s just a … and a … and a …and a…”

Bradley recommended that while in Aspen, “go to the center of town and see a piece that should be a MAKE shrine.” It’s a computer-controlled fountain that DeWolf created in 1980 — thirty years ago. Bradley adds: “Thank you Nick for all that you did. You are missed!!!!!”

I’ll be giving a talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival called “Why Young Makers Matter” and Bradley’s story and his link to Nick DeWolf illustrate the importance of inspiring and engaging each new generation in the act of making.

Link to Aspen Mini Maker Faire.
Wikipedia: Nick DeWolf

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

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