A Wild Hackaday Belgrade Confirms Status as One of World’s Greatest Hardware Cons

Hackers, Designers, and Engineers flooded into Dom Omladine on Saturday for what can only be described as an epic celebration of hardware culture. This is the second time Hackaday has organized a huge conference in Belgrade, and lightning really did strike twice.

A Gathering of New Friends and Old

We got things started off with a meetup the night before the conference. The first Hackaday Belgrade was held in 2016 and we didn’t reserve a bar on Friday night — we ended up taking over one just through sheer numbers. This year we called ahead for a large outdoor space, then made good use of it.

Everyone was giddy with anticipation of the next day to come. There is always a sizzling energy of meeting up in real life. Most of this group hangs out on Hackaday.io, but only some of them have met in person. Add to that the reunions of those who became friends at the previous Hackaday Belgrade and at other cons around Europe and you have the feeling of coming home. These really are your people.

Yes, a Conference. But the Cool Kind

Hackaday conferences are more than just parties… they’re conferences. If you approach it the right way you can get your employer on board with you attending because you’re going to meet incredible people, learn lots of stuff, and come back excited to take on the Universe. Actually, bring your boss along for the ride too!

This year we had thirteen incredible talks. As is our practice, we started off with a super-technical talk as Rachel Wong (aka @konichiwakitty) discussed her Ph.D research which involves growing eye tissue in the lab. But like all incredibly brilliant minds, she has a creative outlet which she also covered as part of her Keynote address. Rachel has a passion for building wearables that are reaching for the future by embracing things we really do need in our garments and gear.

From drone monitoring networks to robot soldering machines, and concepts for designing meaningful hardware to using code to automate tedious PCB layout, there was plenty in these talks for everyone.

I really enjoyed Elliot Williams’ talk on Logic Noise for his live demos using simple logic chips to build up complex music. Marcel van Kervinck took us on a journey of TTL computer design. And Sophi Kravitz’s talk on building non-rigid airships had at least two people at the con get inspired and spin their own blimp design during the conference! There was a live-feed of the talks so keep your eye on Hackaday as we pull those out to be featured individually.

Some of the demo hardware: Acoustic levitation for lab work

The workshops were standing room only as people who weren’t able to grab a ticket audited the course. We had three hands-on session that built wearable circuitry, brough art to PCB design, and dove into the world of FPGAs.

Welcome, Here’s Your Neck-Mounted Retro Computer

Everyone through the door received a custom electronic badge to hack on during Hackaday Belgrade. Voja Antonic designed the hardware and oversaw the manufacture. We had excellent yield which is great because we had nearly (if not more than) 100% attendance at the conference. We ended the day with just 5 badges to spare!

Hackaday Belgrade badge and user guide put to use

These handheld computers are truly hot! The badges each have 55 really clicky keys. With at least 350 people in the room, that’s approaching 20k momentary push switches and at one point, a brief “silence” fell and all that could be heard were clicking buttons. That and we asked everyone to play the Mario Overworld tune at the same time as hundreds of badges rose in a glorious chorus. There’s also a 16-page user manual to go along with them which included sample code to get started.

Hacking went on throughout the day but as the talk session wrapped up we transformed the hall into a Hacker Village. Tables were brought in and immediately filled. Live music filled the room as Bogdan Rosu and Richard Hogben each played IDM sets. If you’ve been watching Hackaday videos you’ve heard their work and their performances this night were epic.

There was food, there was beer, and there were the tools of our lifestyle; laptops, programmers, jumper wires, blinky add-ons, and the excitement that goes along with all of them. The badge hacking presentations began at midnight and the place was still alive with excitement. It is truly great to see how supportive our community is of exploring hardware and trying things out. Publish your badge hacks and stories from the conference on Hackaday.io as we’ll be featuring those in the coming days and want to make sure we have all the juicy details.

Why Belgrade?

Keep your eye on Hackaday as there is much more coverage to come on this wonderful event. Many have asked: “Why Belgrade?”. It’s a fantastic city and the engineering community in the area is passionate about getting together to learn and share ideas. This includes the Supplyframe engineers who live in Belgrade and did the heavy lifting to organize and staff Hackaday Belgrade. You all did an amazing job and everyone at the con owes you a debt of gratitude, thank you so much! We also want to thank Supplyframe and SevenBridges, our sponsors for the event.

To all who attended, it wouldn’t have happened without you! I can speak for everyone on the Hackaday crew in saying the culture we share is energizing, encouraging, and humbling. It’s exactly the kind of recharge everyone looks for to keep life interesting! We’ll see you at the next one. Now over the next five months we have our sights set on the Hackaday Superconference. See you there!

15 thoughts on “A Wild Hackaday Belgrade Confirms Status as One of World’s Greatest Hardware Cons

  1. Thanks for organizing the second conference of this non-recurring event in Belgrade, it was as great as the first one. And the badge was so fun, I kinda missed the first two talks by paying more attention to the BASIC interpreter than to the speakers! I hope to see soon the 3rd non-recurring edition in Belgrade! You guys rock!

    1. Thanks so much! I had a blast (should be obvious from the article above) and I think it’s safe to say the turnout and energy from everyone at the con was way beyond what was expected.

      A few weeks before the con somebody asked me if I thought lightning would strike twice. I hadn’t considered that the first Belgrade conference’s success could have been luck. And I’m glad to see that this one was even bigger and more exciting than before. I’m so happy to have a huge community of interesting people who prefer to spend their time sharing ideas, getting inspired, and learning stuff. This was so much fun!

  2. It was great, up until the talks ended. Then the noise began, as loud as last year, except this time the hacking tables were next to the stage. Instant head ache even with earplugs. When I asked to make it a little quieter, I was first sent on a wild goose chase for the person responsible, and then told to deal with it. So that was the end of the conference, and I missed the lightning talks. I hope that further Hackaday conferences will be a little bit more inclusive.

  3. You need to find a new production company who understands rigging and how a real line array works. One of those photos shows a group of point source boxes bolted together into a terrible looking attempt at real line array. Aside from those boxes not being designed to be flown in that manner the eye bolt used is not forged.

  4. Revspace and SHA2017 badge crew checking in :)

    Great conference. Love the 1 day high intensity format, love the focus on hardware. It’s something i really missed at SHA2017 and CCC.

    I had an awesome time handing out SHA badges just for the hell of it, hope they are put to good use.

    Was awesome to talk to my heroes and make a bunch of new friends!

    Next year in the Netherlands?

  5. Looks like a fantastic convention was had by all, But, like Windows login screen backgrounds, they all seem to be northern-hemisphere-centric. Any chance of a Hackaday con in the southern hemisphere one day? (btw I nominate Australia :)

  6. It was a blast and thanks for having a great conference in such a pleasant city. Although the Senster talk might be the most direct inspiration for an upcoming project, as a stem cell consumer and grafting aficionado I was pleasantly surprised with konichiwakitty’s keynote on the progress in hacking meatware :-)

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