My last word on building computers!

Paul Koning paulkoning at
Fri Jan 15 13:04:54 CST 2016

> On Jan 15, 2016, at 1:56 PM, Ian S. King <isking at> wrote:
> A number of years ago, I read an interesting book titled "Buehler's
> Backyard Boatbuilding".  In the front matter, the author decried the
> decrease in DIY, whether that was fixing your own car or (his topic)
> building your own boat.  For the author, it was a clear sign of the
> intellectual apocalypse.
> When I was an undergrad, my roommate built his own guitar, performing all
> the bending, shaping and glueing.  It took a long time.  He could easily
> have purchased one with the money he would have earned in the same hours -
> at minimum wage.
> So I think this is in fact a broad theme that touches on values such as
> independence and pride in one's skills and abilities - and for some,
> curiosity (*can* I do this thing or that?).  Individuality is another value
> I see expressed (less and less) in the motorcycle community - time was when
> the phrase "stock Harley" was an oxymoron.  (And don't get me started about
> the stupid phrase, "factory custom".)

We tinker with old computers because it is fun, educational, challenging ... not because they are the best tool to solve today's computation tasks.  Similarly, others tinker with electronics, do metalworking in their basement, build guns from scratch -- for very similar reasons.

Yes, you can buy a guitar rather than build one.  That assumes you can earn enough spare cash to afford one.  There's a very famous set of books about how to build metalworking machinery (lathe, mill, etc.) from scrap aluminum, cast in your back yard using charcoal for heat.  The author, according to his comments in the book, did this mostly because he didn't have enough money to spare on already-built machines.  A similar story is in "South Sea Vagabonds" whose author lost his job, so he used the time to build an oceangoing sailboat in his parent's front yard, from driftwood and scrap metal.

For a lot of people it's not money but the challenge of making your own.  Sometimes it's the challenge of solving a problem in an odd way.  For example, building a boat of concrete (or a lathe).  Or, as one of my father's classmates did, building a working bassoon by telescoping a roll of kraft paper adhesive tape.  


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