Mini maker faire coming to a Barnes & Noble near you

Barnes & Noble Maker FaireMainstream retail meets the maker revolution.

So this is interesting news, Barnes & Noble are hosting a mini maker faire in every one of their 650 retail stores between Friday November 6th and Sunday November 8th 2015.

You can find out more from the announcement on their blog. The schedule is now available on the site.

Maker Faires are family friendly show and tell events where Makers come to share what they have made and what they have learned. They take me back to the 1985 Alexandra Palace personal computer show where Clive Sinclair announced his C5 electric car.

The big Maker Faires in the Bay Area and New York drew 215,000 visitors last year and there were 119 mini Maker Faires last year. There is a mini Maker Faire in Seattle next week. But this is the first synchronized national event like this.

It will be interesting to see the maker movement meeting mainstream retail, if you are a maker spread the word and visit a local Barnes and Noble mini maker faire. You could even sign up as a presenter.

If you are interested in becoming a maker, take this opportunity to see what it is about at a local Barnes and Noble store.

Good fun and good business

This will be a fun event for the maker movement, but with magazine sales down and brick and mortar book sellers struggling to survive, this is serious business for Barnes & Noble.

Hosting in store events is an interesting strategy as it leverages their high street presence in a way that an online bookseller can’t replicate. And it gets people excited about a topic and open to buying books and kits from the store.

Personally I like the broad choice of books at and the instant gratification of downloading a book to my Kindle or an audio book to my Audible player. I am intrigued by the idea of a brick and mortar store offering something more social, but I wonder how that will translate to me spending more money at Barnes & Noble over the long term.

Becoming Maker

microchipAs a kid I was driven to understand how things worked. I deconstructed toys, unsoldered components from old car radios, disassembled and reassembled hifi stereo systems and learnt how to program High Street store VCRs.

My interest in electronics led to me doing a correspondence course where I built an oscilloscope from scratch. Then the microcomputer revolution came along and I was hooked, learning basic and Z80 assembly on a ZX80, and selling software in the computer magazine classifieds.

Back then computers were simple enough that you could know them inside out – you could buy a complete ROM disassembly in a book.

As my interest in computers led to a computer science degree and a software engineering career things got more complicated and things moved further and further away from those early tinkerer days. Operating Systems became huge, ecosystems became complicated and new development frameworks were being released every day. Now half of the software you use isn’t even running on the machine under your fingers, it is running in the cloud somewhere.

Then a second revolution came along, the maker revolution. Laser cutters, CNCs and 3D printers made it possible for individuals to convert digital designs into physical objects. Microcontrollers moved from being devices only accessible to embedded systems engineers to something school kids could program. And a community, supported by thousands of online how-to posts evolved.

Those microcontrollers filled me with nostalgia for the microcomputers of my youth, small simple devices that you could understand inside out. With their I/O headers and communication interfaces they begged to be connected to things, embedded in things, they begged to be used in new and creative ways. And they were small, so very, very small and ridiculously cheap – I could buy a microcontroller for less than a cup of coffee and hold one on the tip of my finger.

This was another revolution I had to join – I had to become a maker.