You don't want to be my kid

27 June 2017

Imagine you would like to build something with your kids, as a learning experience. For example, a bike. No gears, simple brakes, simple frame. You can probably fit everything you have to make in your head. But you still need to build it…

You’d probably have to have some sort of rule, so you don’t cop out. For example, are external tools bought, or also made? Are big tools (eg professional lathe, or an oven) allowed? If you need steel, do you just buy steel, or do you try to make it from ore? Some of this might sound completely over the top, but imagine you have 10 years or more to do it. Because it’s a lot more complicated then it sounds. You’d probably skip gears, but you would need breaks. Lights would be a nice side project as as well. But what would be the rules?

My kneejerk would be this: you have to do everything once. Then you get to do the shortcut. For example: you need some steel. Do it once. This is already huge, as you need to build a forge, etc… But if you have a single lump, you get to simply order it every time you need it. If you need a gear, you make a single one that fits badly (but still works), and then order what you need.

I know how crazy this sounds, but I think such a thing would be extremely educational. I actually lack a lot of formal education in computer science, and I would love to build a machine from scratch. I have no idea of anything beneath the lowest forms of programming. Of course, you would have to settle with an extremely basic machine, something not unlike the earliest “build it yourself” computers, eg the gorgeous (Altair 8800)[]. Once you manage the most meagre of chips, it would even be an idea to find one of the “golden oldies”, such as the 8080.