Don’t Ignore The Middle Of The Country!

“Nothing happens in the midwest”. I won’t say who said it, but it absolutely makes my blood boil. I’ve heard this several times during my time at Hackaday. Aside from being so insanely arrogant and dismissive, it is also completely inaccurate.

Some people believe you absolutely have to be on a coast to be part of anything interesting. In the modern age of the internet, geographical location is becoming less and less of an issue. People are collaborating on projects that span the world. Here at hackaday we see projects quite daily that are spawned from a forum linking hackers to a common theme with virtually no central geographical point.  Robots, video games, open source software, tools, and art installations have all sprung from the diaspora that is the hacker culture without any necessity for being located on a coast.

With tools like 3d printers becoming common in hackerspaces collaboration on physical design is even being spread geographically. You could be in your garage in Arkansas, assembling a machine that was designed by someone in Minnesota, and inserting code that was uploaded by someone in Kansas!

Sure, we all know the coasts are great. High concentrations of like minded people as well as the culture you can find anywhere near the ocean. But please, don’t ignore the middle, it makes you sound like antiquated ass.

153 thoughts on “Don’t Ignore The Middle Of The Country!

    1. Next-Tech is and has been rolling out fiber in Western KS as well. However it appears that those of use in some rural residences will still have our old copper yet. Anyway fiber to premise doesn’t mean on can afford the services it makes possible. The Motorola canopy technology for wireless internes service has been replaced fixed position wimax. I never noticed any difference in service. I suspect the change was precipitated who got the money because next-tech was an early recipient of the Obama stimulus plan.

    2. We were just talking about the google gigabit internet at work today, we have an office in KC only a few miles from the google office (I’m in Wichita) :-(. But I suggested to my boss that we should try to get gigabit fiber at our KC office for only $70 a month. We’ll see how it goes :D

    3. For those of you dogging on lack of things coming from the midwest (from my personal experience in Kansas and Nebraska specifically), you should visit me sometime and see the fields. There’s simply not the population density of coastal regions. You can drive for miles and only see farmland. High speed internet doesn’t flow freely out here, people still use dial-up. It doesn’t take a genius to understand why content from this region is lacking. It would have to come from bigger cities as the smaller communities are busy feeding you (farming and raising cattle) for a living. Try using google maps sometime, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Biggest city in Kansas is Wichita at 380,000 people.
      That said, carry on HAD! :D

      1. The biggest city in my state has a population of less than 72,000, the whole state is under a million. The only hacker space I know of here is my garage. But I’m OK with that. I was never a joiner anyways.

      2. Are you kidding? Some of the greatest makers/hackers I have know have been farmers. My grandfather used to hack all sorts of stuff together himself out of scrap iron and lumber that he used to run his farm. They just don’t share it online so much.

  1. Giving a shout out from Iowa!! A lot more happens he than people think. Some of the technology on farms today is absolutely astounding.

    FYI next time you up all night working on some project look at your energy drink. Chances are that the high fructose Corn syrup

    1. I find it funny that you say such, yet fail with respects to your grammar and English. ‘smart-related things’….

      Religious people are smart too… Don’t be an ass.

      1. There’s a difference between “religious people” and “bible belt dwellers”. It’s like comparing Firefox users to a hoard of Richard Stallmans.

        I say this as a devoted Atheist and Open-Source user.

    2. I love being Catholic, we have both Faith and Reason and they don’t (have to) conflict. e.g. the Big Bang theory was proposed by a Catholic priest.
      And don’t bring up Galileo, unless you know the whole story and not just what atheists spout out.

    1. Only because he feels ignored.

      I live in ‘flyover country’ too, and understand.

      My son lives in Boston, and it is cheaper to fly to Seatle or LA than Nashville.

      Yep, I understand his ire. Not that the rest of the world doesn’t count, but he wants to feel part of the ones that do count too.

      1. I posted a counter opinion to an opinion. That’s generally what editorial is. By “tackled that comment” I mean I replied to that specific sentiment as opposed to addressing a more worldwide reach.

        data proliferation is amazing. I should have simply discussed how geographical boundaries are becoming less relevant in innovation even with hardware. I think that would have been a more concise article (in retrospect).

      1. “Sights” aren’t located in countries, “sights” are located on the Internet regardless of the country of residence of their authors.

        The only thing that may differentiate websites geographically is their content. If a website is usually made of global content, and thus has formed a global readership (such as HAD, and let’s ignore language for now because it has nothing to do with this particular argument) then yes, a geographically biased post does seem out of place.

        Yes, it would still seem so if the website in question was in French.

        That said I don’t see how he “ignored the rest of the world”, seeing as he mentions it right in the middle of the post. Yeh it’s a little biased to the U.S. example, but I can appreciate why he’d feel the need to do that, even though I’m not from any English-speaking country and don’t, by far, share the North American culture.

    2. Umm… I’m not sure how US-centric this site is, I seem to remember lot’s of UK hacks for example… Yes, it is mostly English (although I think I have seen links to Portuguese as well)

      As much as we all would like to be fully inclusive in our great big maker online social circle I’m not sure how popular a polylingual site would be. Do you really want to stare at articles in languages you cannot read?

      Even after several years of Spanish in both high school and college I don’t think I ever obtained the right vocabulary for this kind of site. I don’t care how many languages you can converse about the weather in. How many people know technical terms in a wide variety of languages?

    3. I wouldn’t read too much into a map from How many of those are actually live?

      I know for my city, Toledo OH there are two that come up. One some guy opened a page on the site a few years ago, stated he was starting one and never came back to it or returned any messages.

      The other I was involved in. We actually had monthly meetings for about a year and came close to renting a space a few times but then it dwindled down to just three of us that actually ever showed up to anything so we shut it down.

  2. Ben Heck is from Wisconsin (nicknamed ‘midwest’ despite it’s north-central location).

    Bigfoot, the truck that started everything Monster Truck related, was created in Missouri.

    Besides that, people tend to knock the midwest due to it’s not-so-dense population. Chances are, the midwest is on par with the coasts if you do an innovation/population ratio.

    1. “Bigfoot, the truck that started everything Monster Truck related, was created in Missouri.”

      I’m sorry, but I could easily create a list of the top 10,000 greatest technological or cultural contributions to humanity, and monster trucks would not be anywhere on it.

      Monster trucks??? This has got to be a joke!

      If the best the midwest can do is make monster trucks, it deserves to be forgotten.

      1. “I’m sorry, but I could easily create a list of the top 10,000 greatest technological or cultural contributions to humanity, and monster trucks would not be anywhere on it.”

        Then your list is flawed.

      2. “I’m sorry, but I could easily create a list of the top 10,000 greatest technological or cultural contributions to humanity, and monster trucks would not be anywhere on it.”

        Neither would Arduino (There, I said it. Someone needed to.), or homemade quadcopters, or network status traffic lights.

        This is Hack a Day, not Big Engineering Project a Day.

    1. Wondering the same here. A map where there’s a high concentration of pushpins on the coast, and they’re spread on the middle states is supposedly demonstrating…?

      1. Source:

        176 US Hackerspaces Listed

        47 Midwest, incl. plains states
        30 Northeast
        28 West Coast
        27 South
        22 Mountain
        20 Mid-Atlantic
        2 Non-contiguous

  3. I just wanted to remind you that some strange countries are not even part of the USA (crazy, isn’t it). Despite this handicap, I heard there is still some people in these areas!

  4. Innovators relocate near places that have a high concentration of tech companies. Tech companies typically start up in higher populated areas, near other tech companies. Higher populated areas typically appear near large bodies of water and resources.

    I lived in the Midwest most of my life, and seriously, not much happens there. But here’s an interesting question: the next time someone does something cool, ask them where they grew up. Maybe the innovation happens on the coasts, but the people come from everywhere.

    1. Sure, but this seems to be becoming less and less common. The innovators are connected digitally now instead of geographically. Enthusiastic people are pushing boundaries at their local hackerspaces or in their garages since they can connect with others across the world. Times, they are a changin’!

      1. They’re not changin’ as fast as they could if a significant portion of the Midwest had access to better than 1.5Mbps/0.5Mbps internet! Or an underlying culture of ignoring tech pursuits in favor of “mudding” and other antics financed by credit card debt. The techies come here because they aren’t understood or respected as much in the Midwest.

        I would go so far as to say…keep in mind this is based on 25 years of experience living there…that the Midwest itself is the biggest perpetrator of the attitude you are addressing here, and actually likes it that way.

        1. That’s a rather extremely narrow view. However, it is also an opinion and not anything arguable. To lay a generality that only the coasts hold people with high regard for innovation is a very large stroke I simply can’t agree with. The fact that you lived somewhere other than the coast for 25 years is somewhat irrelevant. hell, 25 years ago everyone didn’t have internet in their homes!

          I concur that better data would help. There’s also the past of innovation on the coasts that DOES exist. Just don’t discount the middle… or as others have pointed out, anywhere now that data flows without many borders.

    2. I wouldn’t call the coast ‘Innovative’. Profit driven? Strategically inspired ideas perhaps.

      Like biological evolution, isolation from mass ideas breeds focus and innovation.

      I can’t think of anything I would label as gamechanging technology that didn’t come from some guy’s basement or garage in a nobody-cares town.

      1. the internet?
        the atomic bomb?
        the transistor?
        the magnetic disk drive?
        the mouse?
        i could probably go on for a long time just from things sitting around my desk (yes i have an atomic bomb sitting at my desk)

    3. I’ve lived in the midwest for the majority of my life, and I can say that there are a few things the midwest offers that the coasts never will.

      First on the list is space and cost of living. I just bought a newer 2300 sqft house in a good neighborhood for $150,000. It’s only a 15 minute commute from my job. Good luck buying a piece of property anywhere near a coastal city if you’re not a millionaire. My near-six-figure income as a software engineer stretches a lot farther and lets my buy a lot more expensive toys than it would on the coast.

      There may not many (if any) high-profile startups around here, but there are plenty of profitable, geek-friendly companies if you know where to look and maintain your social circle.

    1. I had to look this up truthspew. I was curious but found out that you spew somethng.

      Largest US universities by enrollment:

      Arizona State University
      University of Central Florida
      The Ohio State University
      University of Minnesota
      University of Texas at Austin
      Texas A&M University
      University of Florida
      Florida International University
      Michigan State University
      Pennsylvania State University

      1. Those universities are large as far as enrollment goes, but not large as far as contributions or high quality education.

        There’s a reason that most students prefer to go to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, etc.. And those are all on the coasts.

        That’s not to say there aren’t good schools in other parts of the country and the world. But they’re exceptions (at least as far as US universities are concerned).

  5. Don’t have to ignore it. According to that map, it is doing a pretty good job ignoring itself. Hackerspaces are started by people. If the people in those areas don’t want to start hackerspaces, they won’t have them. Simple.

    1. The midwest starts west of the Appalachians. The map seems to show more hacker spaces in the midwest than on the west coast. If one considers the south a distinct geographic region then I’d be hard-pressed to say without counting whether the east coast (defined as east of Appalachia and north of DC) or the midwest has more.

  6. The midwest is farm country, the home of the home-repair hacker. All those dumb hicks you think live there? They can build a house, a barn, repair farm machinery and weld like you can’t even begin to understand. They are just quiet about it, like everything else.

    Except maybe football.

  7. I’m going to take this opportunity to point out that there is a hackerspace in development in Topeka, Kansas.

    Ad Astra Community Laboratories. We don’t have our own space yet, but we have been meeting at a computer repair shop downtown called PC911.

    You can go to or look us up on Facebook for more information.

    One of the members has built a 3D printer, I’m putting the finishing touches on my laser cutter. We have a Pirate Box in progress, and we just received our first Raspberry Pi.

    Topeka is, in fact, a boring and frustrating place in which to live. But we have quite a few intelligent, ambitious, and creative people.

    Caleb, obviously you have an open invitation to visit us.

    1. id like to point out the only thing that separates a hacker and a hick is having a computer with internet.
      making things, a focus on function over form, an ingenious use of resources are hallmarks of both hacker and hick alike.
      but bringing them together can be difficult but rewarding for both parties.

  8. There seems to be a fair amount of ignorance about those in the mid-west. We aren’t all dumb hicks working farm. Farmers are probably the best “hackers” I’ve met. There are plenty in the Engineering and IT fields. Think about Boeing (Spirit), Cessna, Hawker and other aerospace plants in Wichita alone. The population density isn’t as much, but most of us enjoy that fact. How many can commute 25 miles in 23 minutes on either coast?

    1. If you start your 25-mile commute somewhere in the San Francisco Bay area, you’ll travel through about eight cities, including the entire city of San Francisco itself. On that little drive you’ll pass through an area supporting a population of maybe 4 million people. Let’s see you pull that off in Kansas ;)

      1. 4 million people in 25 miles? What a nightmare! There aren’t a million people in my whole state. The population density by me just soared to about 45 per square mile. Now sometimes when I’m driving I might see another car on the road.

        I was out in my yard earlier today, I looked around, and shook my head. For all I knew I was the last person on the planet. It’s nice!

  9. I know there are hackspaces in the midwest (specifically, Iowa, Area 515 and Ames Makerspace) but are there any maker fair’s nearby? I’m insanely jealous of what you coast guys get for Maker Fair’s, seems like they happen about every month for you (or maybe thats just my imagination…)

    If you’re in central iowa and would be interested in putting together some sort of Maker Fair I may have a venue…email botboy60 (at) hotmail if you’re interested.

  10. You could have written a positive article about mid-western hacker spaces or a constructive post embellishing on the theme of cross-geographic cooperation. instead you let your butthurt show and have invited trolls back for a second helping.

    1. True the people in the Midwest who complain about this or that not happening are often the blame. Just don’t say that in the wrong gatherings, unless you want an earful for kicks.

    1. Respectfully; if you live in the area defined by yourself, and stated “mini fairs don’t count”, you may be part of the problem. I can’t recall reading anyone discounting the NSRA “mini nationals”.”mini” is a function of population, and interested individuals in that population. Fact of the matter is many if not most mini events couldn’t function if they can’t draw interest individual from a distance.Enough to help pay the bills anyway.

  11. Idk if we are mid west enough, but have virtually no hacker spaces in the mountain state of West Virginia. We do however have 304geeks, and more recently Hack3rCon that is a god send for me though.

    I too am jealous of not having a Maker Fair. Seems like all the interesting stuff happens on the coasts. I don’t have the means to start something like Maker Fair or hacker space and seems my only salvation is the internet.

  12. Creating Hackerspaces
    I hoped ,and still hope that that can become another tool to assist in creating hacker spaces, but it really needs to attract those who are involved in managing hacker spaces or similar services no matter what they are called in the US. So far the best information posted to the thread came from another individual who provide the link to Of course input from hackerspace users is welcome as well. However my observation is that volunteer or public/private collaborative provided services live or die as to how well they are managed. Yea I know managed can be a dirty word, but I don’t know how I can state it otherwise.

      1. So’s the US mid-west last time I was there! Or at least it would certainly be if you hadn’t dammed the Colorado River and made Mexico a desert.

        Actually there is less desert in Australia than most people think.

  13. “There are tons of hackerspaces in the midwest, it’s just as good as the coast!”

    *shows a map with tons of plots on the east coast and almost nothing in the midwest*

    Am I doing this right?

    1. didn’t say anything about lots of hackerspaces. In the article, I stated that geographical boundaries are becoming less relevant. I can be in the middle of nowhere and be playing an active role at a hackerspace in california as well as a project in amstradam.

  14. If you look at the actual geography of the continental USA, the States commonly (and very incorrectly) called “midwest” are actually in the *middle of the east*.

    Should call them mideast States.

    Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico are the States actually in the *middle of the west* and thus the true midwest States.

    This midwest misnomer dates back to the time when the USA only extended to the Mississippi River and the States just to the west of the Ohio River were in the middle of what was then the west part of the country.

    People stubbornly rejected reality and substituted their own as the USA expanded westwards, clinging to an increasingly inaccurate term – even expanding “midwest” to include all the States between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

    So if you live in the mideast US, next time someone says something about “midwest”, screw with their mind by correcting them to proper geography.

    Perhaps if this gets thumped into enough heads, they’ll stop thinking of the west as “That vast unknown space between the Mississippi and the West Coast where nothing of importance happens or exists.”.

  15. Living in California it’s hard to think of states east of me the midwest. but i could care less. call it what ever you want. when i say i live on the west cost, i live on the west coast!

    I would also like to state that not all hackerspaces are on the website and that map can not be trusted. i know several west cost sites that dont show up on that map so im sure there are “midwest” states with hackerspaces not shown.

    That said…, Caleb the map shows no hackerspaces in the center of usa. so i would agree by looking at that map that there are no hackerspaces in central usa. i’m sorry if that makes you mad.

    1. there’s nothing in that article that states there are more hackerspaces in central USA. I was saying that now days geographical location is no longer an issue. It seems my choice of header images was poor. Simple population density will determine how many hackerspaces there are and those areas are less dense. That doesn’t mean people aren’t doing awesome things.

  16. Uhm… I’m not American so pardon my ignorance. But your rant is about things happening in the mid-west and then you post a map in the article that underlines that (almost) nothing seems to happen in the mid west? :S

    Confused european is confused.

    1. Also the irony in that most of the arguments apply to the whole world, not just the USA, however the rant happily ignores the rest of the world and only points out activity in the US.

      There needs to be another rant post titled “don’t ignore countries outside the USA”

      1. Agreed.
        There are tons of interesting, innovative projects in hackerspaces located in Middle Europe, Russia, China, etc etc, it’s just that they (we) don’t feel the urge to feed our ego by bragging about them in huge, popular sites. We do the projects, share all the info about it (on github for example), and then quietly move on to another project. Being modest and quiet doesn’t mean we don’t do anything.

    1. pfft what has the rest of the world done that the USA hasn’t? The LHC? Only because we let them

      Ours was going to be 5 times as big! The Moon? Been there, golfed that. Electricity? We discovered it. The transistor? We made it. Heck I went to the same school the guy who wrote C and UNIX did. First computer? The US Army made that. They made the first atomic bomb too.

      The rest of the world is nothing compared to the USA. We rule!

      1. While you are bragging, perhaps you could go futher back… say a five hundred years… when two europeans got together and had a small child… which in turn had a child, so on and so forth, until several hundred years later when the people you mention were born of the same blood…

        Think about that next time you think bragging and beating the chest makes you all big and mighty ;-)

        Now would it hurt to acknowledge that indeed, it could possibly be that both the midwest (USA) and the rest of the world is being ignored… it does not take anything away from your manhood, does it?

      2. Sure you could just reel off one fact after another then I’ll do the same and then we could angrily go into a huge patriotic filled tangent about who’s country has the biggest “genitalia”.

        However I’m going to say this instead:

        Thank you USA for your space age technology, thank you USA for your transistors, thank you for creating and sharing all these amazing things with the world yet somehow still crippling your own economy and getting into so much debt your government hardly has a penny to it’s name. Thank you for settling down and letting the rest of the world have it’s turn again.

        It’s been very interesting watching all this unfold on my TV which was invented in Scotland that uses transistors the USA discovered but are now manufactured in China.

        Patriotism only gets us so far, the sooner we all become less ignorant and accept and help one another the better.

        By the way, I’m still wondering what to do with my 25 days paid holiday this year. Maybe i should go State-side! UK RULES! Ooops ;)

        1. What does anyone do for the USA that you think we need anyone’s help?

          If you want to help then you can tell me what happened to the registration at this site. That would be helpful. Because until I find out I’m done with here.

      3. You exaggerate: C was based on a stripped down version of BCPL designed by Martin Richards of the University of Cambridge (UK)

        First computer Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine or Charles Babbage’s Analytic Engine or British code breakers Colossus – you choose.

        First programmer Lady Ada Byron

        Atomic Bomb? an allied collaborative effort, but you can have it if you want it.

        and…. Electricity???? go fly a kite!
        (the English words “electric” and “electricity”, which made their first appearance in print in Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica of 1646.)

        Let’s face it most of the USA’s inventiveness is either mythical, stolen, or imported.

        1. Only an Englishman can hold up a list of failures and be proud of it. As one great American so eloquently put it, duh, winning! That is what the USA does.

          Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine — never existed

          Colossus — was not a computer. ENIAC was the first.

          Lady Ada– had nothing to program which shows being too early is more fail than being too late. Logic I’m sure the poor old girl would agree with.

          BCPL — was a failure. C isn’t I never said the USA invented programming, we just made it great.

          Atomic Bomb — an allied collaborative effort? Being cheerleaders doesn’t get you on the team.

          The English words “electric” and “electricity” — coining words is not science.

          Come on now if this is the best that you can do then you’ve made my case for me. So thank you.

          1. > Colossus — was not a computer. ENIAC was the first.

            That is obvious nonsense – even the US based wikipedia – not known for it’s lack of US oriented bias – agrees.

            Of course, you will probably change the definition of a computer to suit your argument – go on then lets see what you come up with.

          2. Colossus was a pile of post office surplus rubbish. It did one thing, crack ENIGMA code. Funny how it was decommissioned when the Germans surrendered. Because then it had nothing else it could do!

          3. > The English words “electric” and “electricity” — coining words is not science.
            WHAT??? so they just made them up in anticipation? clever chappies.

            If you want absolute confirmation then i will just mention the names Faraday and Maxwell… sigh…

      4. LOL – that is how you yanks have have been justifying your inflated egos for decades – stealing other peoples ideas and making money from them and then conning yourselves into thinking that you thought of it first – but I have to concede that you *used* to be good at making money…

        BTW I am not English, just someone who appreciates the truth.

  17. Toymaker Television (Tymkrs) is in Rochester MN, and there are people in Rochester who work at Mayo Clinic and IBM headquarters who are BRILLIANT hackers. Our IRC channel is considered our global hackerspace where we have folks from ALL over, even Latvia.

    And I second what many have said, there are so many farmers and diyers here who don’t see it as some “DIY Fad” bandwagon that they’re jumping on. It’s just common sense. You want something a certain way? You gotta make it.

  18. I seem to remember something about a couple of orginal hackers from why back when, what were their names? ummm…? oh yeah, The Wright Brothers
    Weren’t they from Ohio? oh yeah, they were from Ohio which is in the midwest. And that is where they built / hacked the very first airplane. They only took it to NC because of the wind they needed to take off, and sand is a lot softer to crash on…

  19. I’m a bit disappointed in the article. I agree that more happens in the Mid-west than people realize, and actually less happens in some major cities than people think, but this article seems to close to the types of comments we were trying to discourage not to long ago…

    If it’s no good for the comments, why is it okay as an article?

  20. +1 for mid-west!

    Go Wisconsin!

    All the spaces around here (Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago) have some really great projects.. and really community oriented.

    Mid-west rules!!!!

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