I recently spent a day at an event sponsored by Monocle magazine and GE, focused on “tech craftsmanship.” It started with an interesting statement from Tim O’Reilly: If you want to see what the future holds, look at what really smart people are doing in their spare time.
For example, the PC revolution began with a bunch of smart nerds (and a few college dropouts) hanging out at the Homebrew Computer Club, showing off things they’d hacked together in their spare time.
Now the really smart people are probably building 3D printers from Makerbot kits, or else creating their own high-powered lasers or animatronic, flame-breathing dragons. Sure, these devices aren’t practical mass-market devices. But then, the Apple I computer that Steve Wozniak put together with a wooden case he built by hand in his shop wasn’t a mass-market device either, and look how far that idea got.
… About a hundred people gathered to hear a handful of experts talk about craftsmanship, apprenticeships, mass customization, and the art of making delightful products that “romance” the customer. The audience was heavily weighted towards designers, to judge from their eyewear alone (lots of glasses with chunky plastic or wood frames — but, alas, no actual monocles).