Hello from Grants, New Mexico.
This morning we woke up somewhere on the outskirts of Colorado Springs, Colorado and, after Jesse did a video interview for Slashdot from the corner of a very, very loud Starbucks, set out for Quelab in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Along the way, we stopped for lunch in Las Vegas (New Mexico) where we saw what may have been the best bookstore name of the trip so far: Tome on the Range.
The driving has been some of the most beautiful we’ve hit on the trip so far. Though, it is a little spooky at night when it’s nothing but blackness in all directions. We're far enough into the desert that tumbleweeds blew across the highway in front of us this evening.
When we arrived, the folks at Quelab were getting ready for the Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire. We got to see the amazing laser cut badges (with working gears) they made for last year's Faire. This year's badge design appear to be a closely-guarded secret.
The space is divided into a large set of workshops and a set of smaller, more office-like rooms. Every room has a name--naming rights were sold to members for $256 as part of an Indiegogo fundraiser. The workshop rooms included the first darkroom we've seen in a makerspace since leaving Boston.
One cool thing we saw at Quelab was pre-printed tags for labeling things. Many makerspaces tend to have a chaotic mix of stuff around - projects in progress, abandoned projects, broken hardware for scrap, working hardware that you shouldn’t mess up too badly, etc. Often these get labeled with sticky notes. JT from Quelab told us this that they'd borrowed the system and the tag design from another makerspace (that we failed to write down and can't credit :/ ), but that they'd been evolving the tags to better fit how things work locally.
There were a bunch of interesting projects and tools at Quelab, but the one that we <3 the most lives in their entryway. They've wired up a classic teletype to play Zork. (We actually tried to fit Zork's predecessor Colossal Cave into the Model 01's firmware as an easter-egg, but it just doesn't quite fit.)
Tonight's meetup had a really nice kitchen-table vibe. It started off a bit slow, so we were sitting around in Quelab's common room. Over the course of the evening, as folks came in, they just sat down at the table and joined the conversation. A couple of the folks who showed up were on a roadtrip of their own and had been watching for a day when their schedules and ours came within 100 miles so they could join a meetup.
One of the things that we talked about tonight was the cost of the Model 01. We think that the Model 01 is good value for money, but $300 can be an awful lot of money, especially for something that won't even show up for most of a year. If you don't have the cash lying around but do have some free time and a willingness to learn, there's an awesome option. Building your own keyboard. If you have access to a laser cutter, you can design and assemble a completely custom keyboard for about $50 in parts. All you need is a microcontroller like an Arduino Micro, keyswitches, diodes, wire, keycaps and acrylic or plywood. Early on, we salvaged keyswitches and keycaps from old mechanical keyboards we found at Goodwill. The most difficult part is finding a lasercutter. Conveniently, just about every hackerspace out there has a laser cutter. Folks at your local hackerspace can probably help you get up to speed on the soldering and programming bits of the keyboard, too.
Our slide deck about how to build your own keyboard from scratch might help you get started: http://www.slideshare.net/obrajesse/building-a-keyboard-from-scratch/
The biggest danger of starting down this path is that a couple of years later, you might find yourself designing and selling keyboards for a living. There are worse fates.
Also: Jesse wrote a piece for The Setup, a fantastic blog that interviews folks about the tools they use to practice their craft: https://usesthis.com/interviews/jesse.vincent/
Today, we drove 456 miles, bringing us up to 5198 miles since we set out from Boston.
As of this moment, 1244 of you have backed us for $382,818, including 1232 keyboards.
P.S. Happy Canada Day, especially to the wonderful Canadian people and companies who have helped make the Model 01 a reality: Mike Kuehn, Riley Cran, Upverter, Slack and Matias.