Maker Faire: If you can make it and don’t… you lose!!

Restored Pinball Machines

Ben and I packed up a couple of pinball machines and headed up to the San Mateo Fairgrounds to add ’em to the rather amazing collection of stuff on display at the Maker Faire.

Last year was incredible, but this year is going to crush it. Many more exhibitors and exhibits. Lots of small stuff, large stuff, interactive stuff, and just plain amazing stuff.

I am deeply honored to be invited to be a part of the show. While everything about Pinball is quite completely in line with the Maker ethic, it is clear that I need to take this beyond “restoration” and directly into “customization” and “optimization”.

Of course, we setup the Cyclone — the machine that was the subject of the Make article — and then it immediately started reseting during game play. Typical problem of System 11 based Williams machines.

So, we road tripped back south and hit up Halted for a boatload of random parts that might fix the problem. $48 and two slices of the best pizza on the west coast later, we headed back to the Faire to fix the damned machine.

Fingers crossed, it seems like a bit of solder reflow, some replacement diodes and capacitors, and a bit of connector cleaning has stabilized the machine!

We also used the setup day as an opportunity to take a few pictures that simply won’t be possible once the place is packed. And packed it will be. This is going to be one hell of a show.

Ben Fighting Off Robot Overlords!

Our neighbors are SRL: Survival Research Labs; kings of the massive destructo-bot, fire breathing, overwhelming shows. Seriously cool stuff. I had a friend that worked with them back in the late ’80s and I have always wanted to meet the crew.

Now I have. Seriously nice people working on some seriously kick ass ‘bots. Pictured is a knife wielding bot that will happily thrust a knife into styrofoam around an outline of a hand. If you have the guts, you can put your hand in the outline.

That is, if the robot is calibrated. Which it wasn’t. So, Ben volunteered to help calibrate the ‘bot. Looks kinda like he was fighting it off, though.

The SRL crew brought some scary robots. Hundreds and hundreds of pounds of self-mobile steel that often breathes fire.

Can’t wait to see this stuff in action.

Ultimate Surround Sound Setup?

Wandering around a bit, I ran into this wall of speakers. I have no idea, but it looks cool and has an amp (or two… three?) hooked up to it. Hard to tell from the picture, but the speakers are aligned to surround a spot where someone could obviously stand.

That sounds pretty intense. I’ll have to give it a try.

Music Thingy

In the same booth was this music making device.

No idea. None.

Looks cool, though! Should be interesting once it is in motion.

Bottle Chandelier

There is a huge area devoted to Carlo Rossi’s Jug Simple very creative efforts to make furniture and such out of wine jugs.

Pictured at left is the totally awesome chandelier they have hanging over their area. More traditional pictures can be found here.

Beyond the chandelier are dozens examples of crafts made from these jugs and hundreds of jugs available for visitors to experiment with.

Beyond the jug lamps, jug ducks, and jug vases, they have an entire living room set made from wine jugs!

Really nice people, too. They let me crawl around to take some photos. I like this one, too.

Make Video Game Kit on Breadboard

The Make folks are clearly capitalizing on their own show. In a very positive fashion, I might add.

Beyond the typical selection of O’Reilly books and magazines, the Make shop has an incredible assortment of kits that you can buy, take home, make, and then modify. All are focused on experimentation.

Pictured at right is the breadboard version of the very simple, Atari 2600 graphics quality, video game kit that is for sale. There is also a PCB version. It is terribly neat. The kind of thing that Woz will likely appreciate. The blue resistors on the left — blue being relatively high precision components — are actually a digital to analog converter that is used to generate the NTSC video signal out of the unit!

Damned cool hack, that! Elegant. I might have to pick one up!!


This year is a bit different in that it appears that quite a few pieces of art from Burning Man are showing at the Make Faire. Lots and lots of amazing pieces.

Pictured is a custom motorcycle. Looks like it works. Gorgeous piece of art. Same group also has this interesting flame thrower like thing.

Must be quite interesting driving down 101 with that strapped in the back of your pickup.

And that just barely scratches the surface… not even barely. There is the entire combat robot arena with bleachers, the Crucible is there with their rolling welding workshop, the TechShop folks have a HUGE room, a full sized MouseTrap game that crushes stuff in the end, and so very very much more…

2 Responses to “Maker Faire: If you can make it and don’t… you lose!!”

  1. Amie says:

    I so wanted to come this year, but I’ll have to wait until the kids are bigger. Can’t wait to hear the details from the event proper!

  2. Erik says:

    The Addams Family pinball machine… classic. It was an integral part of the soundtrack of my youth. Regardless of what I was playing, be it Street Fighter II or Samurai Showdown, the theme song of the Addams Family pinball machine would cut through the din of the small arcade with its “duh duh duh duhn! (click click!)” every couple of minutes.

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