Skip to main content

Hackers carve space for DIY movement

Click to play
'No better time than right now' for DIY
  • NYC Resistor has blossomed into one of the country's most influential hackerspaces
  • A workshop from the group drew a crowd of tinkerers and curious newcomers
  • Hackers build, refine, break and share everything from robot pets to intricate paper sculptures

The staff at has been intrigued by the journalism of Vice, an independent media company and website based in Brooklyn, New York. is Vice's site devoted to the overlap between culture and technology. The reports, which are being produced solely by Vice, reflect a transparent approach to journalism, where viewers are taken along on every step of the reporting process. We believe this unique approach is worthy of sharing with our readers.

Brooklyn, New York ( -- A few summers ago, at a DIY repair-off at a small art space in Brooklyn called Get Yr Fix, I watched as ragtag teams battled each other and the clock to breathe new life into all manner of dead and disused goods gathered from the city's streets.

The toddler's three-wheeler became a colorful miniature carnival ride; the resurrected baby pen would have fit right into a Tim Burton version of "Mad Max."

But then, there was a jaw-dropping moment: Two guys armed with little more than a soldering iron and a multimeter dismantled a couple of broken TVs, rearranged some parts and, after a little trial and error, flicked a switch to reveal one fully functioning boob tube.

"Eet's aliiive!" one of them crowed as the crowd oohed and ahhed. They didn't win -- the tricycle did, on aesthetic grounds -- but they weren't there to make something beautiful.

The duo, who were from a group called NYC Resistor, took a kind of mischievous pleasure in taking things apart and remaking them -- like a cross between Bob Vila and Dr. Frankenstein, but in hoodies.

They were quintessential hackers, not the criminal kind notorious for breaking into computer systems and stealing things, but part of a growing movement of do-it-yourselfers that just wants to make things work better.

Not long after, I called them up and asked if Motherboard could pay a visit to their Brooklyn lair.

See the rest of "Making Awesome Things Happen" on

Founded by a handful of friends who wanted a place to tinker with electronics and meet like-minded hackers, NYC Resistor has blossomed into one of the country's most influential hackerspaces. On any given Thursday night, its cozy, cluttered loft workshop is crawling with a diverse crowd of hard-core tinkerers and curious newcomers.

Throwing some caution -- and many user warranties -- to the wind, they're there to build, refine, break and share everything from robot pets to intricate paper sculpture to newfangled musical instruments to machines that can make art. Using a turntable, some valves and tubes, and an open-source hardware-software kit called Arduino, the group even fashioned a way to dull the edges of their late-night work sessions: a bartending robot that serves up Sazeracs at the push of a flashing red button.

On top of public workshops on topics ranging from algorithms to laser cutting ("fiiire the laser!" is a cry often heard from the next room), the group has spawned a huge DIY following, and a number of events and offshoots to match. Most well known among them is MakerBot Industries, a company spearheaded by three of the Resistor co-founders that specializes in kits for an innovative and inexpensive 3-D printer, essentially a miniature factory for your bedroom.

With roots in the underground computer hacking movement -- whose only crime, the Hacker's Manifesto proclaims, is "curiosity" -- NYC Resistor and similar hackerspaces around the world are redefining the idea of hacking.

They're using valuable skills, materials and personal interactions, says Resistor co-founder Bre Pettis, to "make awesome things happen."


Most popular Tech stories right now