Social Science

I’ve been following a few feeds about the local tech scene [, Independents Hall, Junto, P’unk Avenue Window] to see if my impression of Philly as technologically backwards still holds. It does and it doesn’t. While I’d be hard-pressed to find a juicy Documentum contract within city limits, there’s plenty of activity in new media as well as a growing geek culture.

Philly Geeks alerted me to an event by Philadelphia Area New Media Association (PANMA) just two blocks from my front door. Their Web Tools Shootout worked something like perl mongers lighting talks; people spoke for three minutes on about a dozen web/new media technologies. I’ll post more about the event on in the next few days. The final speaker talked about Twitter and offered tickets for another event to the first two people to add him on Twitter. Of course I pinged him from my Pearl before he even sat down. Anyway, I won what turned out to be my first in-the-flesh encounter with the local Maker community.

No, I don’t mean sandworms from Arrakis. They are people fiddling with do-it-yourself technology inspired by Make magazine. I’d seen segments on RocketBoom [warning: video plays on the jump] and Boing Boing about some really involved projects and large gatherings called Maker Faires, but I didn’t know anything about the local community.

Anyway, I spent Saturday morning in an EZ-LED course run by Josh and Far from The Hactory, a spin-off of Make:Philly. We made throwies, blinky bugs, and a push-button pulsating LED circuit on a breadboard based on a 555 chip. I haven’t messed around like this in over 20 years, and it brought back great memories of cobbled-together creations. Here are a few snapshots of my blinky bug from yesterday:

Blinky Bug 1/3 Blinky Bug 2/3 Blinky Bug 3/3

Ok, it’s a little primitive and my technique with anything other than bits is totally atrophied. But…it was a blast futzing around with it. My innovation was an LED as a firefly-like abdomenal appendage. The antenna flaps came from an exchange of conceptual DNA with another bug. I’d definitely go to more events like this.

And…Science strikes back by feeding people’s thirst for more than knowledge. An article in the New York Times [These Scientific Minds Think (and Drink) Alike, may require subscription] has me scouring the web for similar gatherings locally even if they’re not as evolved as New York’s Secret Science Club. AND…I haven’t been to a Philly Perl Mongers meeting in ages, a group as much about good beer and good programming.


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