The First Makerspace?

At some point in our evolution, human beings started sharing tools.

We know from biologists that many animals make some kind of tool, but many tools provide only latent solutions — a specific tool to accomplish a specific task. At some point, human beings began to make multi-purpose tools that could serve many different functions. Some of those tools became useful in ways that far exceeded their initial intended use: a stick and clay led to a symbolic lexicon for documenting the collected knowledge of humanity, a glass lens for “seeing” became a microscope for fighting disease and a telescope to see into origin of the universe, a TCP/IP protocol for digital communication became The Internet, whatever that is. Somewhere along that path, human beings began to make tools that became useful in ways unexpected.

But how long was it before the first human being with a useful tool handed that tool to another human being? Ten thousand years ago? Fifty thousand years ago?

A hundred thousand years later in 1958 in New York City, sharing tools was a good idea. Maybe ask everyone to throw a dollar in the pot in exchange for a place to work, access to tools, and some good advice. Not a bad idea then, or now.

New York’s Greenwich Village is famous for the “unusual,” and The Audio Workshop definitely falls into this category. It’s a place where just about anybody who wants to build a kit can rent workbench, soldering iron, nut drivers, etc., for a total of $1.00 per hour. Use of scopes, meters, audio and RF signal generators is on the house — as well as plenty of expert advice.

The workshop idea was dreamed up by Dave Muirhead and Elliot Gordon, two experienced audio men, who rented a loft at 732 Broadway and parlayed it into a kit builder’s home away from home. Habitues include attorneys, mailman, a concert violinist and a lady psychologist — kit builders all.

The note above is from Electronics Illustrated in 1960. But the article below is from Audiocraft magazine in August of 1958. See here for a PDF of the issue.

Although the language may seem dated, it is interesting to note that, from the beginning, efforts were made to make the first makerspace an inclusive space for all.

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