Has DIY Become Click And Buy?

Ordering prototypes like they were fast food

We are living in great times for DIY, although ironically some of that is because of all the steps that we don’t have to do ourselves. PCBs can be ordered out easily and inexpensively, and the mechanical parts of our projects can be ordered conveniently online, fabricated in quantity one for not much more than a song, or 3D printed at home when plastic will do. Is this really DIY if everything is being farmed out? Yes, no, and maybe.

It all depends on where you think the real value of DIY lies. Is it in the idea, the concept, the design? Or in its realization, the manufacturing? I would claim that most of the value actually lies in the former, as much as I personally enjoy the many processes of physically constructing the individual parts of many projects.

For instance, I designed and built a hot-wire CNC foam cutter recently. Or better, I designed a series of improved versions, because I never get anything right on the first try. All along the way, I 3D printed new and improved versions of the plastic parts, ironing as many of the little glitches out as I had patience for. This took probably a good handful of weekends’ time, spread out over a couple months, but in comparison to time spent testing, fixing, and redesigning, very little time or effort was spent in the physical building.

Moreover, I bought most of the parts at the hardware store. The motor controller shield and cheap Arduino clone came from eBay. And even those that I did manufacture myself, the 3D-printed bits, were kind of made by a machine — my experience of the whole process wouldn’t have been any different if I ordered them out.

Of course craftsmanship still exists, and we see that in Hackaday projects all the time. Heck, I’ll admit that I still enjoy a lot of the process of making things with my own hands for its own sake. It’s peaceful. But if there’s one thing that the rapid proliferation of ideas and projects that have been facilitated by 3D printing and cheap short-run PCB services, it’s that the real value of many projects lies in the idea, and the documentation. Which is to say, I gotta get around to writing up that foam cutter…

55 thoughts on “Has DIY Become Click And Buy?

  1. I think if you buy an Arduino or clone, an LED, and a resistor, download an IDE and a sketch, put them together and end up with a blinky, you have still retained the essence of DIY.
    Likewise, buying a knock down shelving unit, painting or staining it, and assembling it, is still DIY.
    Putting a K & N filter on your car, or rotating its tires is DIY.

      1. Interesting comparison. I’ve heard the original cakes mixes just required you to add water and bake, but they weren’t a hit with people who bake since it didn’t feel like baking. To combat poor sales they modified the mix so you had to add eggs and oil (as well as the water) to make it feel more like baking.

    1. Would you be allowed to buy wire? And how about the cores? Or the LCR meter?

      Few people make their own soldering iron or multimeter. And if you etch your own PCBs, you probably buy the PCB material and chemicals. I think we always end up buying base materials. And I propose it’s still DIY when you order the parts to build your project. I don’t intend to make my own resistors, capacitors, crystals, semiconductors and such, to build a controller, to use in my next project, when the project itself is what I really want to work on. Unless, off course, your project is to design and build that processor. Then you probably order a bunch of 74xx ICs. And if you intend to build your own logic IC’s, you end up buying a lot of transistors or silicon wafers.

      But somehow to me it feels like cheating when I use a ready made and assembled board. I prefer to choose components and design the PCB myself, but that might be just personal preference. The people who do use ready made boards probably get a lot more done than me. It’s the same with programming languages. I love to fiddle with assembly, but the people who choose to use higher languages might have written an entire application by the time I figured out multiplication.

      And luckily we’re not all the same. That would be a boring world.

      1. I usually stock a limited range of inductors as I am not made out of infinite money. If I need something that I don’t have, I’ll try to use the cores from inductors that are closest and rewind them. e.g. if I need a 33uH inductor, I can make one from 22uH or 10uH instead of wasting money on shipping just to get one part. I reuse wires from old transformers for my own inductors and cores from inductors.

        I have rewinded the flyback transformer when the HV section of my scope blew up. Turns out that wasn’t the problem, but managed it fix it with junk PC PSU and old monitor parts. My flyback transformer still works.

        1. Repurposing, right, I forgot all about that. When I started out with electronics (1980s) my primary source of parts was stripping old radios. I have desoldered so many resistor, capacitor and many other parts. Never rewound a coil though.

          1. -digression- I love wasting part of an afternoon stripping useable parts from discarded electronics (and occasionally discovering that they’re actually repairable). It’s very therapeutic, you learn stuff, and you get lots of useful parts.

            One of those cheap open-source testers that can check transistors, diodes, caps, inductors etc will ensure that you’re only saving good bits.

    2. Winding coils isn’t hard. Inductor cores are hard to come by at low quantities from regular parts suppliers. Kids these days don’t seem to like hands on work at all. e.g. etch PCB, solder, make simple mechanical parts.

      I have reused the inductor cores for my custom parts. When I unwind them, I count the number of turns. With that info you can figure the number of turns needed for new inductor values *without* using a LC meter. I built a couple of the open source LC meters.

      1. I agree, regardless of age, many aren’t’ interested in DIY, in y field. Thing is Elliot’s rant, really isn’t productive. Imagine someone who just, came across HAD, and Ellioit’s rant was the first thing, they read, why wouldn’t they move on? Nest to save the dog whistles for the politicians , news out editorials, and “social media”

    3. Unless you are mining and refining your own copper for the coils it is not true DIY. No screw that, unless you have built your own star to produce the copper it is not real DIY. No no no, unless you have been collecting individual protons and electrons and making your own hydrogen to build the star to produce the copper to wind your own coils then you are just a blow in, and even then some might argue that you are just cutting corners by not making your own protons and electrons.

      1. And then there is the whole Iron problem, where the highest atomic number that the star can produce through fusion is 26 (Fe). You need to be a star destroyer to extract heavier elements like Copper with an atomic number of 29 (Cu). So unless you are building and destroying your own stars it is not DIY in the true spirit of DIY. You may as well be buying custom pre-wound copper coils!

        1. Some may even argue that if you build your own atom smasher to produce individual copper atoms for the coil that would be OK, but is it really DIY if you are using store bought lighter isotopes.

          And then there is the whole chicken and the egg problem, where did your coils for the particle accelerator come from, were they store bought!

  2. There are many viewing angles to DIY. What matters is what the person gets happy with, be it building from the minimal parts, or buying entire sub-assemblies already built.

    The only part when the use of the word becomes kind of an inconvenience is when googling for something and when one wants specifically one kind of other.

  3. Depends what you’re building, doesn’t it?
    If your project is a microcontroller, then buying an arduino clone isn’t DIY.
    If your project is a foam cutter, then buying a ready-made one isn’t DIY.
    But if your project is a CNC foam cutter, then an arduino clone controlling a store-bought cutter is.

  4. I think that this article’s title question is missing the fact that much of today’s DIY is orders of magnitude more sophisticated that in the past. Compare a 40 year old DIY article for a shortwave receiver with a recent article for an SDR receiver. And of course the new possibilities in DIY firmware and software running on small ‘commodity’ SBCs, which didn’t exist before. I wouldn’t call 3D printing a shortcut; it’s an art to design something successfully. And the ability to buy already-built functional blocks for pennies means that the maker’s time can be spent at a higher level of design. I can put a month into designing a DC-DC converter, sourcing the parts, iterating… or I can buy a handful of working and tested converters for $10, and put that month into the project that requires the DC-DC converter.

    There are still relatively timeless DIY pursuits like woodworking, the appeal and the satisfaction from that will always remain. But for more technical DIY, it’s an amazing time! I was doing electronic DIY 50 years ago… and I much prefer today’s opportunities.

    1. This is what I was thinking too. I remember back in the day we had to write our own serial drivers for our CP/M machines. Nobody writes serial drivers anymore, that problem is solved. That doesn’t mean we’re not programmers.

      Similarly back in the day I built my own usbserial dongle but nowadays I can buy one for $3.

      This frees me up to go higher up the scale and not have to deal with the minutae. So I’ve got prefab OLED displays I’ve got prefab stepper drivers I’ve got prefab RF modules but in the end the project itself is still mine and a far sight more sophisticated than it would have been if I’d had to build all those parts from scratch.

      1. Cool. Each to his own. 🙂👍

        To me, it makes a difference whether I got a project done with, say, my self-made EEPROM/MCU programmer or, say, a TL866-II.

        Using my own tools successfully gives me faith and inspires, encourages me to do other projects.

        Money is the least I care about, despite being rather poor by todays standards.
        Doing something that makes me happy is priceless to me.

      2. “Nobody writes serial drivers anymore, that problem is solved” – ha ha ha, I am employed to do just that, and drivers for other bits of hardware, SPI, SDIO, I2S, etc etc.

        Believe it or not, there are still companies out there building their own electronics (albeit integrated on silicon).

    2. “Compare a 40 year old DIY article for a shortwave receiver with a recent article for an SDR receiver.”

      Hm. My father, also a ham, told me about how he made his microwave parts (horns, waveguides) in the 70s.. That was 50 years from now, even.

      He still has those parts and showed them to me. These were high-precision parts, partially made with simply tools.The transmitter was made with with GaN diodes, if memory serves.

      He also experimented with lasers, at the time, lile other hams did. Real lasers with tubes. A few helium-neon lasers, one was an argon-krypton ruby laser, even, I think. No simple stuff. Experiments with electronics were his joy, rather than a final product.

      This is just an example of a single life.
      So let’s please don’t generalize the eras, please. 🙏😘
      Not all hams are or were grim old farts.
      Some were into VHF/UHF only-amateurs and into the satellite hobby, for example.
      Or into ATV, SSTV, RTTY and later, Packet Radio etc.
      Essentially, they were proto-IT professionals.
      A bit like S. Wozniak, if you will.

      The 70s/80s had high-technology already, even though it wasn’t mainstream: 3D computer graphics, graphics workstations that did simulations.

      My father had access to a Zuse mainframe at the university he went to, for example, before he built his own CP/M compatible computer from ground up in the 70s – the era of the DIY computer hobbyists.



      Or let’s just think of old movies..
      The Andromeda Strain, Brainstorm, Wargames, Explorers, Daryl, Flight of the navigator, just to name a few.

      These were all made by people of yesterday, using the technology of their time.
      In some way or another, they accomplished amazing skills and craftsmanship that we either haven’t gained or have lost, depending on how we look at this, hi. :)
      So please, let’s hold on for a minute and appreciate them. These guys and gals were no *cave(wo)men, they had culture, manners and imagination. They aimed for the stars. Maybe even more so than we do in these grim days.

      However, since hams can be found in every part of society, it does not matter so much, if technology was mainstream or not. Hams can be poor, rich or a celebrity. Even presidents and computer pioneers may have an amateur radio background. Or had a ham as a friend, as an assistant. Or a ham/hacker in the neighborhood. Who knows? Hams didn’t always told they were hams. They sometimes separated their ham hobby/service private life and their business life.

      (*strictly speaking, cavemen were skilled, too. They were excellent painters, observers etc. No primitives, at all. I was refering to the stereotype here. )

      1. Woah, who’s generalizing now? ;-)

        Props to your dad, truly. I was not intending to attack or belittle those older projects or the people who built them, just trying to point out that because of the technology and subassemblies available to us now, the same relative effort can produce a more sophisticated and complex project. This is good, no?

        My first ‘serious’ project as a kid was a kit for a tube regenerative radio. Still have it, and I’ve since scratchbuilt a few more.

  5. The best answer is that DIY is doing what makes you happy.

    You could take any kind of extreme view and make a game of it. Perhaps it isn’t DIY if you use integrated circuits.
    It all has to be done with discrete transistors. Or it isn’t DIY if you use someone elses software. So using the arduino GUI is definitely out, all programming must be done bare metal. But this turns it all into some kind of rules game. Do you have to mine or and smelt your own metal? Make your own fiberglass?

    The truth is that every person should set their own rules and not care what anyone else thinks. But of course if you are trying to “earn cred” on social media, then I suppose you end up playing some kind of externally defined game.

    For a lot of the things I do, it is more the journey than the destination. I like getting some kind of new board and then learning how it works, writing bare metal code and whether I end up with anything useful or not doesn’t matter. But not always, sometimes I actually want to end up with a working device in a reasonable amount of time.

    I am considering learning about leatherworking. I have a few things I would like to make, and being able to make exactly what I want is appealing. But I really don’t want another hobby and rabbit hole. I could find someone with skills and pay him or her to make things for me. Or I could just get online and click and spend money.

    What about the old heathkits? Is that DIY? Some would say so of course, but once you connect all the dots and end up with a working gadget, do you even understand how it works? That’s not the kind of DIY hacking that I want to do.

    1. I’m with the happiness, I really like that idea to describe DIY.

      The results don’t need to be good, usable, practical or anything. For me it is enough to have that joy to make something that had a positive impact on my life. A little WAF might help. :)

  6. Back when I was starting with electronics, for some reason I didn’t consider building kits or designs found from books “really DIY” because I had not designed it myself. Now I can agree on the opposite viewpoint, is it really DIY if you don’t build it yourself?

    1. Kits, or following a published design, are springboards. You learn about the thing as you build it, and you hopefully end up with the confidence and curiosity to go on to other projects.

  7. Personally I’d say it depends on if it’s something you’ve learned/acquired some information, and/or acquired/improved some of your skills from doing.
    But I’d also emphasize the “personal touch” part, although primarily in the functional sense.

  8. Our family consensus is that any amount of diy is still diy, even going so far as saying that IKEA furniture is diy because of the effort involved in assembling the piece.

    Kid’s experience in cnc/design class in high school was to design and teacher did machine piece, then kids assembled and it felt like diy.

    Wife says craft store kits that are fully assembled and ready for paint, and kits that need assembly are both diy, and the value is in the effort/available time calculation.

    So, I’m thinking diy is fair game from rolling your own semiconductors all the way to tindie kits, and the boxes of parts in the science section in kids toy store.

    The great value to me in diy is delegating the components I’m not focusing in on developing my skills on. I have a weekend time budget, and my skill level in toner transfer and acid PCBs is not great. If I’m working on learning a different skill like designing for a new micro and the supporting discretes, or I need well done etches because the board should be more beautiful/artistic than I can make it, or if I’m working on the enclosure, and don’t want to worry about the electronics…

    I suppose when I did my remodel, I didn’t think twice about milling my dimensional lumber, and when my time ran low, I called in the plumber to do the crawl space work to make progress.

    I know how to grow trees, mill them, season them, cut them to size, assemble them into a shed, wrap them in siding, roof it, paint it, move in, decorate….

    I say send out for anything that has significant health risk if you don’t have safety equipment to do right, anything that the failure in has a potential to discourage your health, creativity and progress…

    If you are learning/mastering a skill, keep your focus on that by farming out the rest…

    If you are creating a new design, guard your creative inspiration by farming out the bits you don’t find inspiring, or that don’t hold variations sufficient to trigger a new idea…

    If you are easily discouraged by failure, buy some successes that keep you motivated.

    Everyone has the capacity to build a discrete 555, pi or arduino, but skipping those steps inspired creativity in a world of makers.

    We are restricted by resources, motivation, capabilities, and as the barriers lower, more people have the capacity to make a product, or a project. If the barriers to success lower enough to get people with ideas engaged, we all win because we are essentially in a perpetual jazz riff session with our community and our things.

    I’m totally rambling now, but when I get down to what I enjoy most, is the thought that even if I haven’t mastered all the disciplines, if I can’t find a product to purchase that I am sure should exist in the world, there is a way to make it.

    If I write it up, I can get feedback from masters of trades I don’t know, and in some cases, if I make a mediocre example of a thing I want to have, it may even become a refined product that someone took inspiration from my base idea.

    Diy is about creating the world I want to live in, and some of it I’m not ready to do myself.

    1. One more thing, with diy gifts the time invested in creating things for others is often received as love and affection, where the flaws inherent in diy are the constant reminders of the effort. My wife is rarely enthralled by electronics, but if I gave her my fail-o-Rama project she would lovingly display it even in its pitiful state, because my effort was meaningful to her.


      1. That’s essentially it. Instead of buying complete products, we build what we can, with the tools and materials we have available, or can afford. We invest time, rather than spend cash. If we can afford the parts, or service, why spend the time? For some, it might be an educational journey. Both for most, we have an idea. Usually many ideas, and we want to finish the project, with the least hassles, and move on to the next.

    2. Kudos, I think this is an excellently written summary! 😎👍

      Our hobby has many facets, like a raw diamond.
      Some of us have goals, some are explorers, and some of us are dreamers, too..

  9. When I was young I would love to make projects completely from scratch and back then there were plenty of reasons to do so. But nowadays, I can buy a cheap power regulator board of any kind that gives me all the functions I need, this saves me lot’s of time, saves me money too (because some modules are way cheaper then the sum of their parts, so it doesn’t even makes sense to make it yourself if you are on a budget).

    Therefore these days I no longer have the urge to make the same basic parts (drivers, power supplies, microcontroller modules) over and over again. There is no real advantage in doing so. By buying modules from some cheap webshop, I save time and money and can go directly to the interesting part, which is the actual project I want to make. And focus on the real problem of the project, not the well known, but finicky stuff. Unless it needs to be, very small, very custom, very high end or perhaps more then one unit needs to be build, it doesn’t make sense to build everything from scratch.

    You could ask the same question for programming. Is programming still programming if you use libraries somebody else has written?

    DIY is still DIY even if you don’t re-invent (or build) the wheel over and over again. In my book it is acceptable if you cut corners and buy ready made parts BUT you have to know the working of these parts, ins and outs, otherwise, if in the end the project doesn’t work you can’t fix the problem. Or in other words, It’s OK to use a module (if you know how to build such a module yourself)

    1. “But nowadays, I can buy a cheap power regulator board of any kind that gives me all the functions I need, this saves me lot’s of time, saves me money too (because some modules are way cheaper then the sum of their parts, so it doesn’t even makes sense to make it yourself if you are on a budget). ”

      Yes, but how’s quality of that cheap regulator board from China?
      Is it clean, free from ripple?
      Does it handle fluctuations, power surge, overcurrent?

      When I was little, I also thought that newer often equals better.

      Then my father explained me, that this isn’t exactly the case always. He taught me to differentiate.
      And he had explanations that were reasonable, rather than biased. He always provided me with the facts that I asked for and drew diagrams.

      For example, power supplies. That’s an every recurring topic for discussion, among rechargeables, hi..

      Switching PSUs are RF/harmonics generators with a rectifying stage attached.
      They need very good filtering to make a clean DC signal. Caps, diodes, pass filters chokes, etc.
      Long story short, a lot of trickery and components. Each which has the possibility to fail.

      Now, by contrast, a transformer and a linear regulator (78xx) are old and not very power efficient.
      However, as a team, they have a low component count.
      And they exist for decades, have proven their longlevity.
      Also, a transformer is much more sophisticated from a mechanical point of view.
      A cheap regulator can be photo-etched at the China factory, no big deal. A transformer, however, needs finesse. Wire needs to be wound up, by hand or machine, several dozen of thin metal sheets must be stacked for the core..

      Also, transformers can provide plain AC, unlike most switching-PSUs. The ones that do, have a lower efficiency than transformer PSUs. They must use a chopper that generates a square wave or sawtooth signal, which then must pass several filtering stages.

      Modern step-down/step-up converters belong into that category, too, I suppose. The AC generated by the switching models, at least of the entry class models, is no pure sine. Thus, they aren’t safe for use with computer PSUs, etc.

      So transformers aren’t as obsolete per se, contrary the popular believe. It all depends on how we look at things. That was/is the message my father has thought me.


      PS: Another example that comes to mind. Bridge-recifiers need AC to properly work. If they are fed with DC, only half of the rectifyer works. Which means that one pair of diodes is working out of spec (overstrain), while the other pair is idle. People of today which do power their vintage AC consoles (European NES etc) with fancy, efficient switching-PSUs don’t seem to realize this. They are kinda damaging their equipment by doing so. Also, the ripple..

      Modern PSUs, lab quality models excepted of course, do lack essential filtering, just like LED lamps for 120v/240v from the super market do. Their “PSU” is missing the capacitors. Using the microwave oven can kill them, due to the short power surge on the mains. I’ve seen that in person a few times.

      PS 2: What always breaks my heart (honestly) is a common attitude of my older fellow hams torwards their younger self that I observed over the years.
      They seem to devalue the archivements of their former self, of that self’s creations. The story always ends like: “Back then I had to build *this and that*, now I can do buy *this and that* very cheap, and this cheap *this and that* is sooo much more efficient/small/prettier /*insert adjective of choice*. Hahaha”. This is so depressing. 😓 They downplay their archivements, thus devalue their older selves! Why? To make them feel better about their current self? Is it a psychological thing? I don’t know for sure. 😓

    2. In most professions or even hobbies (e.g. wood working), you are supposed to learn/understand the basics and build from there. You might might not need to be able to do it well, but at least understanding it enough. We use contractors or outside companies for mechanical/thermal design, PCB layouts. I know enough that I can give them something that is closer to the final design and that save a lot of iterations.

      With the chip shortages, it is actually a good time to be able to build your own circuits out of parts you can get hold of. I can (and I have) build myself a SMPS out of comparators, transistors or even 74HC04.

      I make it a point to do something new or different in each of my projects. It may be trying out a new peripheral or writing driver or doing things just differently. The moment you stopped learning is the moment you are obsoleted.

  10. One personʻs DIY is putting the cord on a stove they just bought. Anotherʻs is building a frequency doubled YAG laser and controller from components and a few napkin sketches. As a kid, I scrounged dumpsters for
    parts. No money, no free access to industrial parts,etc.. Not pretty stuff but I built up a useful and diverse set of skills that fostered an interesting career. Now, time and money in hand, I can just click buy a stock of toolbox parts that can save me a week or two. I see far because I stand on the shoulders of giants … or at least small shops willing to sell me parts and modules with questionable specs .

  11. As it is often is, this rant is basically hand wring over nothing. interdependencey, is what, what eventually, propels the human racy forward Ev evolution, may or not take out,those individual humans, who believe they can survive as a lone wolf. Point and click, is only the fastest way to conduct commerce, at the consumer level. To use it to judge DIY, is a false. After I finish this comment, I’ll be, making a nearly 50 mile shopping round trip. I need grub, and printer ink. Much of which isn’t available in the small town the town 2 miles away. Before a brain injury, I was that pretty accomplished jack of all trades. Would it really matter if al purchased all my tools and supplies, locally or ‘mail order, I’m not DIY? Near me there is a Sears and Roebuck house, , why aren’t those that assembled that kit DIY? Respectfully Elliot you made a long reach, to create something to shine about Sorry I can’t find any constructive about your post, are you certain you are DIY? ;)

  12. When I was a child, my father enjoyed buying plastic modelling kits, carefully assembled them, added decals and paint, and put the finished project on a shelf to admire, and moved on to the next.

    My children enjoy getting legos for Christmas, assembling them according to the instructions, and put the finished product on a shelf to admire., and move on to the next.

    I enjoy buying retro computer and synthesizer kits from places like tindie, carefully assemble them, maybe add an enclosure if it comes with one … and put it on a shelf to admire, and move on to the next.

    There is something pleasurable in taking a bunch of disparate pieces, following instructions, and ending up with a completed product, no *thinking* or *engineering* involved. And there’s also the element of time. I picked up the hobby as it is easy to stop, walk away for a week, and resume right back where you were. Someday, hopefully, I’ll have the time to really play with my toys, but for now, it’s the act of assembly that gives me pleasure.

    1. Seems wrong to me to just assemble Lego according to the instructions, as its nearly immortal (I have bricks twice my age that still look and work just about like new, though the older CA bricks tend to be warped) take it apart, try stuff there really isn’t a downside – you can always put it back ‘in-spec’ later…

      On the whole I agree though, but for me personally I find it much more satisfying to put my own twist on whatever it is, even if I don’t then do the work myself (like this desk was made by somebody with a workspace able to build it quickly) and in the case of miniatures/modeling I’ve spent hours customising the parts, and taking the idea from x and doing it myself in a different way (Like looking at N-gauge card buildings for methods that look like they will still work for t-gauge – can work it out yourself, and in many cases I did, but reference material can be damn handy). Most Ikea furniture ends up modified in some way or other – often bought specially to modify – go looking at the bargain corner for something that can be made to fit what I need…

      1. Oh, sure, the kids bring the legos down off the shelf after a week or two. And by extension, someday maybe I’ll have more time to pull down those toys and do something interesting with them.

        But nevertheless, there is still something to be said sometimes for a hobby where you can just focus on the assembly, not the engineering (and DEFINITELY not the sourcing), and be assured of successful results. It’s nice to relax, turn off the brain, and just put something together.

  13. It’s as “click and buy” as you want it to be. Even before there were PCB fabs and online stores, you could order many kits pre-assembled rather than building them yourself.

    I “click and buy” depending on what I’m doing.

    I designed and built a single transistor microphone amplifier a while back. Since the point of it was to learn about biasing a common emitter amplifier, there wasn’t much point in buying a kit. Since it was just an experiment, I built it dead bug style.

    The reason I decided to learn about biasing a common emitter amplifier was because I had built a transistor curve tracer and wanted to try it out.

    I built the curve tracer as a sort of free form 3D sculpture on the header pins of an Arduino Nano. That project started on a Saturday evening and so had to be completed with just the parts at hand.

    On the other hand, I built a bunch of electrostatic detectors last year. Their purpose was to look cool, so they needed professionally produced PCBs with gold plated surfaces. I designed the circuit and the PCBs, then had them made. I assembled them myself, though.

    I usually buy or repurpose power supplies. Most of my projects aren’t about building power supplies. If I should someday develop a desire to learn how to design a switching power supply then I’ll probably have a PCB made from my own design rather than buying a kit or a complete module.

    I spend money to buy things to save the one thing I can’t purchase – enthusiasm. Every minute I spend fiddling with ancilliary stuff is a minute less that I have to work on the thing that’s got me excited. My enthusiasm tends to fade so I need to make progress quickly. I buy the boring parts then design and build the interesting parts of my projects.

    “Click and buy” lets me concentrate on the things I want to learn about or do for myself. Where to stop buying and start building depends on the goal of the project.

    The building is a large part of the fun, though.

    I enjoy soldering things together too much to let some anonymous fab house worker have all the fun.

  14. I think I’m a lot closer to the traditional concept of DIY than I am to click-and-buy. I still prefer LC oscillators to Si5351/Arduino combos. I prefer traditional filter rigs to SDR rigs. And I prefer to make my own crystal filters. I don’t like to use ICs unless I really understand what is going on inside them (so I can be comfortable with an NE602 or an LM386, but I’m not comfortable with a CPU chip that may have millions of transistors in it). But I am not homebrewing my own transistors nor am I mining copper. To each his own. For most of us this is a hobby.

  15. The way I see it.
    It’s still DIY. Nothing different then buying car parts to build a car or going to a lumber yard to buy lumber to build a shed. It falls under the same means of cooking a boxed dinner then cooking from scratch.

    Now there is a difference between DIY and Fabrication but it’s a thin line. The difference is no instructions or help is done with most Fabrication but a DIY has some sort of instructions/help/template..

  16. in my opinion i need other way

    more voters and more project
    I need a small linux laptop like psion 5 but working a week on one charging. no need internet all time, no color screen, cpu 8-16MHz is ok

  17. I think part of diy might also be a sort of frame of mind, combined with ability, likely a few other bits in there. If one has an idea that has some parts that can’t be made by them, farms it out, completes the rest of the project, is it still diy? I think so myself. I don’t consider mowing my own lawn diy however, although it seems to fit a description of it. Remodeling a bathroom, yes, cooking dinner every night, no. Farming out every part to replicate something that already exists, cause to think of the definition. Farming out every part to conceive of something new, not sure but leaning towards yes. Taking a 2 tie wood shelf, converting it to a 4 tier shoe rack, yes as the original purpose has been modified by me. Could be and endless discussion I suppose. If you have replicated something already existing, farmed it out and merely assembled it, I’m not sure it fits ‘do it yourself’, perhaps a second category of diy such as ‘designed it myself’ might be ok, assuming it has some sort of novel addition to the original function, otherwise one is just ripping off a copy of something. Not stealing per say, constructing kind of ripping.

    1. I think that there may be a cultural reason for going straight to buying parts. Here’s how it seems to work in my case: I have quite a collection of salvaged parts, but I hesitate to use them on projects. Why? Because there seems to be some pressure to do projects as if they are prototypes, i.e., with the intention of possibly putting them into some quantity of production. It can require a lot of extra work, if I start on a project, saying, “hey, here’s a use for that LCD I pulled out of that broken baby monitor”, then even making ONE more just like it can be impossible if that “free” part happens to have become unobtanium. It concerns me.

      1. I have had similar situations where I save a salvaged part, forgo using it in a project that has been deemed not important enough (in my mind), thusly saving it for a potential future project. In the meantime I will use some other bits laying around, but never buy new to accommodate. Sometimes that part I didn’t use hangs around for a few years waiting for the ‘just in case’, sometimes I find a more useful purpose for it. It seems to be a balance act, atleast for me, driven by the memory of storage purges, lest it becomes unruly in the garage, or in the case of some parts, age related ussues, as time combined with storage temperature’s and humidity can wreak havoc on certain parts. Even storing parts of different metals together can have adverse effects over time. A lot goes out the window if there is a chance at making money on a project imo. If parts are scarse, that is a tough one, definitely have to be more disciplined. In my opinion, there is a slight difference between using a part, and the project doesn’t work out, and holding out for a future project that may or may not come/happen, speaking of the mind, stresses and such. Both cases are aren’t feel good scenario’s, I’ve both wasted parts and wasted more parts trying not to use the first part, some parts end up never being used and recycled, this is how I know the feel bad part. For me, using the part and not suceeding feels a little less bad than hanging on to a part and not ever using it. Obviously this is from experience as I can’t see into the future, but I wish I could. This is where I try to balance such issues out. I try to keep my diy as fun as I can, otherwise it becomes work.

  18. I would say that there’s even some merit to the folks who “build their own PC” and are proud of it. These days a lot of people will see any PCB at all and ask “Is that a Raspberry Pi?”, or they’ll see a terminal and ask, “Are you coding?”. I’d say that anyone who even attempts to figure out what’s inside their technology embodies the DIY spirit. It’s about not taking things for granted, and gaining an appreciation for the work that goes into designing them. Even when people ask “Are you coding?” and then actually wait to hear the answer (usually “No, I’m trying to get Steam to run on this piece of garbage”), it makes me happy.

    To connect this to an even bigger topic – the more we attempt to understand our technology, the harder it is for companies to trick us. For that reason, I’m happy to assign the “DIY” label to macaroni art made out of resistors – as long as it gets people interested, it helps.

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