Robert Crumb Ghetto Hacks


[Robert Crumb], the celebrated artist who created the commonly recognized keep on truckin, Fritz the cat, and mr natural can be seen here doing a ghetto hack. His record was warped, so he had to melt it in the oven to flatten it out. While [R. Crumb] may not be the epitome of celebrity and wealth, he got us wondering, what celebrities do ghetto hacks? More importantly, what ghetto hacks do you continue to do, even though you could afford to just simply replace the item? In case you missed the ghetto hacks thread, here it is.


36 thoughts on “Robert Crumb Ghetto Hacks

  1. I hate that “hack” has become a buzz word. Hack your gardening, hack your body, hack your car, and hack your job. Wtf?

    To hack should be only reserved for technology. Otherwise, you’re repairing something, fixing something, or jerry rigging something, etc.

  2. why would “hack” be reserved for technology? How is designing a microcontroller based project more of a hack than designing a mechanical structure? All we are doing here on *any* project is modifying, repairing, or building.

    Personally, I consider a hack to be a non-standard way of achieving something. In my mind, many projects we cover, the best really, are too well thought out to be “hacks”.

  3. I really hate that ‘ghetto’ has become a common modifier. ‘ghetto hack’ ‘ghetto car’ ‘ghetto job’ wtf?

    Its language. If we all understand what is implied, its working.

    And Robert Crumb is cool.

  4. hack

    [very common]

    1. n. Originally, a quick job that produces what is needed, but not well.

    2. n. An incredibly good, and perhaps very time-consuming, piece of work that produces exactly what is needed.

    3. vt. To bear emotionally or physically. “I can’t hack this heat!”

    4. vt. To work on something (typically a program). In an immediate sense: “What are you doing?” “I’m hacking TECO.” In a general (time-extended) sense: “What do you do around here?” “I hack TECO.” More generally, “I hack foo” is roughly equivalent to “foo is my major interest (or project)”. “I hack solid-state physics.” See Hacking X for Y.

    5. vt. To pull a prank on. See sense 2 and hacker (sense 5).

    6. vi. To interact with a computer in a playful and exploratory rather than goal-directed way. “Whatcha up to?” “Oh, just hacking.”

    7. n. Short for hacker.

    8. See nethack.

    9. [MIT] v. To explore the basements, roof ledges, and steam tunnels of a large, institutional building, to the dismay of Physical Plant workers and (since this is usually performed at educational institutions) the Campus Police. This activity has been found to be eerily similar to playing adventure games such as Dungeons and Dragons and Zork. See also vadding.

    Constructions on this term abound. They include happy hacking (a farewell), how’s hacking? (a friendly greeting among hackers) and hack, hack (a fairly content-free but friendly comment, often used as a temporary farewell). For more on this totipotent term see The Meaning of Hack. See also neat hack, real hack.

    Note that only one of those specifically mentions a computer.

  5. Both the Fritz the cat and mr natural hyperlinks are to the same wikipedia page, might want to fix that.

    Also, I can’t imagine that record is going to sound very good anymore, although it may be interesting to listen to!

  6. I tought Hacking was just Abuse Something make it do something not supposed to do.
    e.q Hack a firewall. Most of the time you hack it so that it allows you to gain access to the network.
    No that wasnt suppose to happen.
    Hacking you’re PSP to play illegal games is a other good example.

    Or well Open you’re beer bottle with you’re Lighter.

  7. I have ‘repaired’ many cordless tool batteries by connecting jumper cables to my car and then momentarily ‘jumping’ the tool battery via nails clipped into the other end of the jumper cables. I recommend eye protection. It only takes a few seconds. You can then recharge the restored tool battery in its original charger. Kind of dangerous but it works and saves you the 30-40 bucks that you’d pay at Home Depot. Why throw it away when it can be fixed?

  8. I’d just like to note that I think this is a pretty weak post, ‘ghetto hacks’ have been covered at least twice here before. I’m not really into this recent trend of reader-centric posts.

  9. “Ghetto” is a euphemism for n*gg*r. Whether intended or not, it really is.

    Stop. Don’t use it.

    “Hack” implies “without abundant resources”. No need to bring in an old stereotype.

  10. @gigawatts and bob: the article says he failed. I did this long ago with records left in the car on their edges on a hot summer day. I ended up laying them flat in their sleeves with a heavy book on each one. Left them out in the car the next day and they were fine, albeit a touch wobbly on playback.

  11. I think jews have prior claim on this one (from wikipedia):


    The word “ghetto” actually comes from the word “getto” or “gheto”, which means slag in Venetian, and was used in this sense in a reference to a foundry where slag was stored located on the same island as the area of Jewish confinement.[2] An alternative etymology is from Italian borghetto, diminutive of borgo ‘borough’.

    The corresponding German term was Judengasse (lit. Jew’s Lane) known as the Jewish Quarter.


    The term came into widespread use in Ghettos in occupied Europe 1939-1944 where the Jews were required to live prior to their transportation to concentration and death camps.

    The definition of “ghetto” still has a similar meaning, but referring to broader range of social situations, such as any poverty-stricken urban area.

    A ghetto is formed in three ways:

    * As ports of entry for racial minorities, and immigrant racial minorities.
    * When the majority uses compulsion (typically violence, hostility, or legal barriers) to force minorities into particular areas.
    * When economic conditions make it difficult for minority members to live in non-minority areas.

  12. Who cares? What is really important is that no one bails his dumb arse out by sending him another record. It is the only way he’ll learn. Oh boo hoo I draw tits but can’t figure out that I’ll melt a record that is so valuable I put it in the oven instead of taking/sending it to a reputable person that is a professional in these matters. And besides, he has TONS of other records. Tell him to stop using his waning notariety and eccentricity and get on some meds and take care of his own stuff. Enough people have been enabling this “delicate genius” for years. He is a big boy now and should have to solve his own problems in between bouts of drawing overly shadowed, veiny eyed, rat fink rip offs.
    Sorry, but I have issues with this guy after a former roommate decided he was God. Read a biography book and watched a couple of docs to try and get into this weird-o and figure out what makes him so special and found there are many better, more sane, less obnoxious, and generally more talented people out there. Oh well to each their own I guess. Just had to rant.

  13. This trick has been used by DJs many times before. Beware though, it’s very easy to screw up the record at the wrong temp settings. Sometimes it is better to leave it out in the sun sandwiched between glass plates, then let it cool slowly inside the house. Records can be ruined even in the sun, so pay attention.

  14. I often fix electronic devices in general I could easily afford to replace (cheap mp3 players, cheap picture frames, $1 headphones, etc). I think most people here do, it just seems wrong somehow to fork up for a new one even when it’ll take an hour to fix an item that costs much less then you’d invoice your employer for an hour of your time.

    I think “hack” has a very zen kind of meaning that kind of spans all of the above – something clever, useful, productive (to your side) that isn’t standard. “Ghetto” has taken on it’s own meaning since WW2 and I think it’s a nice prefix for “cheap, sloppy and very functional”. Yesterday I ripped the cover off the grass exit to my sons lawnmower, flipped it over and rigged it with a clothes hanger and a piece of fishing line so that it would blow grass out (rather then jam) but not straight up at the user as he had rigged it. That’s considered “Ghetto” – using crap that’s around for free anyway to accomplish a goal when combined with some brains that otherwise would require more. “Hack” certainly has an air of this and respect it, but extends the same principle to levels that can involve more complex equipment.

  15. One of my hacks I’ve been meaning to replace with my next computer build is that the power button on the case doesn’t work. So I took a light switch and wired it to the 2 posts on the motherboard. Not the prettiest looking thing, but functional. I’m just afraid one day my cat is going to bump into it and flip it off while I’m doing something.

  16. @jeff

    Stop playing the race card, grow up.
    Your statement that ghetto can only apply to blacks is racist.

    Now, as far as this hack goes, Robert Crumb is not doing this out of frugality, he is a relatively well off artist, and one of the greatest living illustrators. He is doing this because his copy of that 78rpm record is one of the last surviving copies. So salvaging it is very important. Sometimes, like in this case, something goes wrong. He is a master hacker as far as 78rpm records goes. He and his friends are preserving songs that most other people will never hear, and without their efforts, no one will ever have the chance to hear again.

    And as far as the validity of the 78rpm record, the National Archives just a few years ago finished transcribing and transferring everything to 78’s. Not digital, 78. They’re durable, and in an atomic apocalypse, with no power, and no technology, one could still hear what is on the record with no more than a needle.

  17. shall i save you all the effort in arguing about definitions and just post this for you all?

    there. if you need help figuring out what a word means go there. if not, let talk about doing some sweet stuff that is either done without the correct tools/parts/tech, in a new and/or innovative way/shape/form, or is just plain awesome/sweet/hilarious.

  18. Instead of replacing garage door opener batteries at $7 a piece, I wired my garage door opener to my car battery, placing a voltage regulator in between. I stuffed the whole thing into the dash and wired it up to an inconspicuous button on the dash. Not quite James Bond, but it does the trick.

  19. I am surprised. All comments seem to be well thought out (with each individual’s personal bias). Some (not-so-hackerly people) will contend that a “hack” MUST include an arduino.

    The comments here are the best.

  20. I realized the old school super soakers from a 2L, a tire valve and some hose work pretty ok as computer dusters. I need to set up a series, with a bunch (4-6) and some duct tape I may never have to taste that bitter stuff in duster bottles again. While testing it, I fried a fuse in my car and noticed the motor in the pump was shot. Unclipping the back and putting it in a powerdrill worked. I want a better solution, but it’s probably now the most ghetto device in my house until I find a better air pump for it.

  21. I am an actual fan of Crumb and I know him in real life also, As i am also a snail mail pen pal of this awesome man. I am looking to find him that record! Rich wealthy people are just like us, if not ever more alienated by there wealth.
    Its not that great to have alot of popularity, it sucks when your hobbie becomes your job. doesnt make it much fun, Hes a genius and i wish him years more of health.

  22. @coldwar23: More people need to learn to do things for themselves. That’s what this community is about. If we only send stuff to “professionals” we open the door to those less than ethical people that do the exact same fix and charge us a ton of money for no reason other than to perpetuate their own greed.

    Not to mention, there’s also a lot of value in learning to do something for yourself.

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