Makers: All Kinds of People Making Amazing Things In Their Backyard, Basement or Garage Hardcover – Dec 17 2005
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About the Author
For more than 10 years, journalist and author Bob Parks has covered the quirky, fascinating personalities behind the latest technologies. His feature articles on innovation in business, sports, health, and the outdoors have appeared in magazines such as "Make", "Wired", "Outside", and "Business 2.0". He's read essays on National Public Radio's All Things Considered and discussed trends in consumer devices with the likes of Regis Philbin and Russ Mitchell on television. Parks worked as an editor for Wired magazine for five years, directing coverage in new consumer technologies and contributing feature articles. He received a BA cum laude in English in 1992 from Bates College. He lives in Brattleboro, Vermont, with his wife, Eileen, and children, Archer and Lucy.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It's therefore no surprise that I enjoyed what must be O'Reilly's first coffee table book - "Makers". Subtitled "All Kinds of People Making Amazing Things In Garages, Basements, and Backyards" this marvelous hard cover volume covers a large range of projects from an incredibly diverse group of people.
The tales are amazing, from a 19 year old high school student (who looks five years younger) who took atmospheric samples with a kite and a plastic drinking cup all the way through to the electrical engineer in Virginia who spent a year and $1,000 building a nuclear fusor.
In between there is a good sampling of the home enthusiast, high school students, researchers and the downright kooky. There is a good mix of design hacks, electronics, engines, useful, strange and marvelously useless that really define the home tinkerer. Here are the tales of a bunch of people who just had to "scratch their own itch."
Most of the stories are a two page spread with a picture or two showing the project and on the facing page the text. The pictures are good quality and a mix of the entertaining and informative. For each story you get the name, occupation and location of the maker along with the cost and an estimate of the time taken to build. For most you also get a URL where you can go for more information.
The book is attractive, well laid out and informative with only a few minor gripes in the quality of the editing - an example "You can instantly change the message at any point instantly by typing a new one and pressing Enter." The paper stock is typical of a coffee table book, a high weight semi-gloss, and the design uses some good looking easily read fonts in a wide open layout. It looks and feels marvelous.
Finding a project is easy, the Contents page lists each of the 100 projects and their makers, and the back has an alphabetical index of the makers. O'Reilly have a page for the book though it gives little real detail, the Amazon page is more useful and informative. This is another gentle reminder for the people at O'Reilly that the usefulness of these PR pages has been dropping lately.
My one serious complaint is that the book is light on details for both the projects and the makers themselves. Since most have some sort of a website about their projects I was most upset by the lack of detail about the people - I'd have enjoyed knowing more about their process, history and motivations. As it is I am left wondering since most seem loathe to talk about themselves on their site. A good length interview with each would have improved the book enormously, though probably required shortening the list of projects. Personally, I would have preferred it. As it is we are left with a book that is indeed a coffee table book - just that little bit too superficial but attractive and probably worth buying nonetheless. I give it four stars because of the lack of depth, on every other criteria it is five. It is full of tales and inspiration.
O'Reilly's biggest mistake was in the release date for this book. It was probably just a little too late to get into everyone's Christmas list, but it may be just the thing for that last minute gift or to soak up the gift certificate from Aunt Margaret.
Parks has taken 91 "makers", those who have invented and created things out of the ordinary, and given them a short one to two page write-up on their invention, their story, and their motivation as to what makes them tick. In many cases, it's a matter of making a gadget out of trashed treasures that someone else threw out. Take Greg Miller, for instance, who built his own night vision scope from discarded parts and $39. Or you have the group of hackers who built an electronic lock-picking machine out of obsolete and castoff computer parts... cost $0. But there are also the serious inventors who devote large amounts of time, energy, and money to pursuing their dreams. Like Tom Chudleigh who has built a spherical wooden treehouse that took him two years and well over $10ooo. Or Hans-Joerg Krohn who missed being able to fly all the time before he was transferred to a job in Kazakhstan. To satisfy that urge, he spent over $12000 and 10 years building a full-scale flight simulator with multiple computers and customized instrument panels. While the back of the simulator looks like a Rube Goldberg device, the seating canopy looks like a professional trainer. An incredible feat of engineering...
O'Reilly has done a superb job with this "coffee table" book. After the success of their Make magazine, it's not surprising that they would publish something like this. What is unusual is the quality and beauty of the volume. Heavy paper stock, full color pictures, and a stylistic look that kept me turning the pages and marveling at how creative people could be.
This isn't a "how to" book, so if you're intending to buy something as a tutorial on building things, look elsewhere. But if you want to be inspired by human ingenuity and creativity, this book will definitely fit the bill...
His world of "Makers" is a big, exciting, and nuanced sort of place. Best of all, I think Parks understands what makes these folks tick, and brings that out well through excellent prose and helpful diagrams.
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