A hackspace is necessary to tackle a mixed reality project. There are just too many unknown unknowns to try to go it alone.
Fortunately for me, I had Cambridge Hackspace -- a cross between a hacker study hall, a workshop, and a local pub.
Fortunately for all of us, there are now hundreds of these places around the world.
It took a while for me to generate some momentum at this hackspace, but eventually I fell into a Tuesday night routine, tuned to the weekly "Open Projects Night." I maintained it right up until the arrival of COVID-19 (and I'm hoping it can morph into something virtual, eventually.) It went something like:
- Head directly home from work, grab a bite to eat, pick up my Photon and a few related tools.
- Start walking down Somerville Avenue (this is all happening around the Cambridge/Somerville border, in Massachusetts, USA) until I pass an old cemetery framed by a gothic black iron fence. Turn down the next alley.
- Head towards the railroad tracks, past auto body guys drinking after-work beers around a smoking barbecue.
- Continue along the loading dock side of a well-worn warehouse. By this time I'm hearing a few bands practicing: first a thrash metal outfit; then, as I turn the corner, a funk/soul band.
- Now I'm at a beaten up metal door, secured with an industrial keypad lock. The door is plastered with stickers and scraps of tape from flyers past. Off to the left, there's a doorbell housed in a laser-cut plastic case labelled "Camb. Hackspace." It is glowing amber. A nearby arrow made of blue tape adds some emphasis.
- I know the key code, so I push right in. More flyers are stuck to the bulletin board inside: guitarists wanted, bikes and amplifiers for sale - cheap.
- I walk past rehearsal spaces and artist studios, until I reach another locked door. I'm here.
- Inside, it smells like scorched wood. A half dozen people are usually scattered about: a few guys standing next to the laser cutter (which accounts for the burnt wood smell); the rest are hunched over cafeteria tables, tinkering with laptops and breadboards bristling with wires and blinking lights.
- A few people look up, and deadpan a greeting with a nod, or a distracted wave of a hand.
- Among the people I regularly consult: co-founder Richard Hawthorn, president Ed Klacza, Travis Bumgarner, Blair Kenney, Max Rottersman, and many, many members and visitors.
- Even though I usually plan to just spend an hour (it's a work night), I will be here for at least two, possibly three.