I stopped by the Analog Heaven Bay Area Gathering this past Saturday. It was a lovely little event with all sorts of modular synths on display; Moog, Arp, Buchla, SynthTech, Wiard, Blacet, Doepfer, and of course, original home-brew equipment. Very cool. I didn't take any photos, but there are some here, here, here, and video here.
This took place at the TechShop, which is a spectacularly interesting place. It's a large warehousey building in nearby Menlo Park set up with large rooms filled with all sorts of serious tools. Grinders, band saws, a drill press, lathe, milling machine, welders, plasma cutter, laser cutter, 3D printer, press brake, shear, punch, and lots more. They run it like a health club; membership costs around $100.00 a month and you get access to everything.
They also offer classes in using the equipment. This makes sense for safety, for minimizing damage to the tools, and for members to get the most out of the equipment. Again, it's a health club model; one can damage body parts just as easily on a drill press as on a bench press.
I believe that the TechShop is also indicative of the new cycle of hobbyist builders. Home built projects and equipment were very popular in the 60's and 70's. I was very much into the electronics side with Heathkits and Popular Electronics magazine. In the 80's and 90's the practice faded as you could often purchase most imported mass-produced products far cheaper than you could possibly build them. But now building seems to be coming back with the Maker Faires, Scrapheap Challange / Junkyard Wars, BattleBots, the Steampunk movement, and of course, MythBusters. In fact the founder of TechShop used to work with Adam and Jamie.
TechShop isn't some dinky community tool sharing resource, it's a serious business. They're working on franchises in other locations. How cool is that? A creative entrepreneurial business that's used by start up creative entrepreneurial businesses to build prototypes and models.
I'm not going to be joining just yet; I just don't have enough time to devote to building right now. But maybe sometime in the not-too-distant future.