SUDDENLY, my phone rings. It chirps out a tinny version of what sounds like the Christmas carol Angels We Have Heard on High. I am giddy with amazement.
On the fifth floor of the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, David Mellis has just plugged in the mobile phone I spent all afternoon soldering together. That's right: I just built a cellphone. By hand.
Mellis is a graduate student in the High-Low Tech lab, a group of engineering evangelists trying to bring technology know-how to people who perhaps thought it was out of reach. In 2005, he helped found Arduino, a company that makes easy-to-program microprocessors and sells them on simple circuit boards. The idea is to help people make electronic products without needing a degree in computer science.
They're popular among hobbyists, hackers and the sort of people who end up working at the Media Lab but they're hardly mainstream. Mellis wondered if he could take the idea further."