Clive Thompson on How DIYers Just Might Revive American Innovation

Posted on April 2, 2008 

Clive Thompson on How DIYers Just Might Revive American Innovation

I keep botching the soldering. A well-soldered joint is supposed to look like a small, shiny volcano. My attempts look like mashed insects, and they crack when I try to assemble the device.

As it turns out, this isn’t a problem just for me — it’s a problem for America. We’ve lost our Everyman ability to build, maintain, and repair the devices we rely on every day. And that’s making it harder to solve the country’s nastiest problems, like oil dependence, climate change, and global competitiveness.

The decay has been rapid. Only a few decades ago, most serious adults were expected to be fluent in basic mechanics. If your car or stove or radio broke down, you opened it up and fixed it. “Magazines like Popular Mechanics in the ’40s and ’50s would publish projects like an automated pig-feeding trough, and they assumed you had the tools and skills to make it,” says Dale Dougherty, editor and publisher of Make magazine.

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