Papercraft lamps. Cables hanging everywhere. An overhead clock with a dot-matrix display that looks like the DRADIS from Battlestar Galactica. A vending machine that dispenses food as well as electronics. Someone inside a closet yelling, "firing the laser!" This is the mad-technologist scene you walk into when you visit NYC Resistor, one of the most well-established hackerspaces in New York City.
Hackerspaces are places where nerds, hackers, programmers, artists, or members of the general making community can meet to work together on do-it-yourself projects that usually relate to technology. Think of them as a sort of hangout where people from all sorts of professions that might never jive together normally--like artists and chemists--can work side-by-side on almost anything they can imagine.
All the hackerspaces I have been to exist as nonprofit workshops started up by a few individuals. They serve as independent spaces that encourage the sort of creativity you may not see in a typical school or work environment. NYC Resistor in particular is set up as a workshop space in an old factory building for people that want to mess around with self-built tech.
NYC Resistor isn't just one of the very first hackerspaces in New York--it's considered one of the very first hackerspaces in the entire United States, right alongside San Francisco's Noisebridge. As an organization, NYC Resistor was originally founded in the summer of 2007 by a group of nine individuals that included MakerBot Industries CEO Bre Pettis, as well as Zach Hoeken Smith of MakerBot and RepRap fame.
But despite these close ties to MakerBot, NYC Resistor's existence actually predates some of the earliest consumer 3D printing technology, and even the Arduino craze.
The nerd den
This high-tech haven resides in an old, creaky four-story warehouse building in downtown Brooklyn, just a few blocks from the ritzy new Barclays Center. Its location in this seemingly low-tech environment seems counterintuitive at first. But walk inside, and you'll be greeted by a long desk covered with loose circuit boards and overused soldering kits that serves as the hackerspace's geeky playground area.
NYC Resistor is open on Mondays and Thursdays to hackers, makers, and general tinkerers from all over. Aside from walk-ins, NYC Resistor has about 50 Members who pay $75 in monthly dues. To become a Member, you typically have to come in on open nights or for classes first and get to know people.
Justin Day, MakerBot CTO and NYC Resistor contributing member, told me that becoming a Member is really a trust-building exercise, because every Member receives a key to the building so that they can use the space whenever they want.
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