Dream Projects Face Reality

Do you ever get a project stuck in your mind? An idea so good you just keep thinking about it? Going over iterations and options and pros and cons in the back of your mind, or maybe on paper, but having not yet subjected it to the hard work of pulling it into reality? I’ve had one of those lurking around for the last couple weeks, and it’s time for me to get building.

And I’ve got to get started soon, because it’s rare that any project makes the leap from thought to reality unscathed, and when I hold on to the in-thought project too long, I become far too fond of some of the details and nuances that just might not make the cut, or might get in the way of getting a first pass finished. When I really like a (theoretical) solution to a (theoretical) problem, I’ll try to make it work a lot longer than I should, and I can tell I’m getting attached to this one now.

The only cure to this illness is to get prototyping. When the rubber hits the road, and the bolts are tightened, either the solution is a good one or it’s not, and no amount of dreaming is going to change that. Building is a great antidote to the siren song of a dream project. Although it feels now like I don’t want the fantasy to have to adapt to reality, as it inevitably will, I know that getting something working feels a lot better. And it frees me up to start dreaming on the next project… To the workshop!

26 thoughts on “Dream Projects Face Reality

  1. I sadly have to somewhat concur with jack.

    I have plenty of great project ideas. Drawing up PCB’s, even ordering them. The problem with these things usually is software. And I say this as an embedded software engineer/architect by profession.

    The idea is cheap. The schematic, a few days? Part sourcing couple of days? (with schematic rework. Layout, let’s be royal and give do 3 or so days. So a good week. Then it’ll be 10 weeks to do proper software.

    Obviously, taking and arduino and turn on/off a relay with a sensor, is not the level of projects I speak of.

    Sad truth .. Sometime you can slap something together quicker o course

    1. What kind of issues do you face with embedded software that makes it hard to reach the goal? Signal processing, concurrency/timing issues, control (theory)? Can you elaborate a bit or give examples?

  2. More than once I’ve had an idea that could have been a dream project, and with a belief that it could have commercial potential. Sadly, experience has let me know that those great ideas often/usually occured to someone else a couple years before… So it goes.

  3. 18 months of hard work
    $10K in self funded hardware
    SUCCESS ON THE FIRST real TRY that we are going to count. shhh!
    2 days wrapping everything into a geocities page
    2 days of usenet popularity before being served a cease and desist for patent violation
    7 days later the cops show up with a warrant and seize the prototype
    17 years of watching the clock waiting for stupid obvious patent to expire


    1. I’ve got a patent on pressing buttons and letters appearing on screen. I’m a billionaire while real people do the work to make my patent work.
      Not really. Burn all the lawyers.

  4. I hate having an idea and don’t know how to implement it. I want the echolink equivalent for texting – merging packet radio with a hand-held text-only device which doesn’t use APRS and is its own thing. Then I could use software on the PC to handle the device-to-device texting utilizing internet to send my text to my ham buddies in other countries. Oh yeah – you can find a million problems with it – but still it would be fun to use.

  5. There’s ideas I’ve had for ages, but part of me is fearful of starting work on them. I don’t like failure, especially expensive failure. It’s a mental block. But at the same time, I don’t want to die with my dream still being a dream. I need to adapt Adam Savage’s ideal that you’ll likely take at least three attempts at getting something right. Rarely do you get it right the first time, and even if you do, you won’t learn as much as if you did fail.

    1. >you won’t learn as much as if you did fail.
      One of things I can’t agree with Adam’s philosophy 100% – its possible to learn more and not fail! As that is potentially why you didn’t fail! You were interested and engrossed in the research phase long enough you learned from many many many other folks failures before you actually got round to having a go!

      On the whole I agree though – if you have enough of the time/energy/money/interest to make a start on something give it a go, the worst outcome assuming you do enough research to keep a safe distance from a Darwin award is you learn something and have to iterate! Even if you can’t then find the chance to iterate immediately whatever you learned is likely to stick with you till you can, and there are these wonderful things called notebooks/pads with their accompanying pen/pencil and computers where you can keep notes on each project.

      1. I just finished the bulk research on my “flagship project” and I hope it’s the case that it works. Any research for any project gets written up into a project log, which helps in consolidating and increasing confidence in my research.

    2. I can’t garner the motivation to do a project once and you want me to do it 3 times?

      Then again, how do you become like that guy who puts rocket engines on everything like a 100 MPH mobility scooter.

  6. I have a different problem, I think up a project, get started on it and then somethinf around the house or a car or some other needy piece of infrastructure will break.or show signs of wear and then the project gets shelved for the higher priority project of need.

  7. all my projects are on a multi-year time scale.

    the power tool battery powered power wheels? that’s been bouncing around in my head for the last 15-20 years. finally got started on one, it’s about 60% complete and operational, the nephews love it. still need to add a custom electric winch somehow. and more lighting.

    my pickup truck build? i started planning about 6 years ago. i bought the truck 2 years ago, still planning, but finally starting to acquire parts and create a concept of order of completion. driving the truck for those 2 years so far has significantly helped pare down what features/functions fit where, and also give me better perspective into how any alteration i make will affect my day-to-day use of the truck. i’d still love to build in an inflatable HD movie screen/projector and 6,000 watts of speakers in the bed. but i’ve never had a practical use for either of those things.

    nothing worth doing is worth doing fast, especially for hobbies. as you said, mulling over these ideas gives me an opportunity to refine and consolidate the idea to the harsh light of reality. sometimes reality is acknowledging the inherent overall strengths of the material i have on hand and the space constraints i must work with.

    and my experience over the years has taught me that the wait also allows for tech to progress in a way that a new product not only suits my idea, but sometimes does it better than i would’ve been able to implement without tons of extra work.

      1. Fifty years ago, I could get exotic things at the drugstore. Formaldehyde and carbon tetrachloride. Off the shelf. But I was just a kid, so I never explored all that they sold.

      2. They wouldn’t even sell me glycerin and fuming nitric and sulfuric acids, back in middle school. I’m sure it’s worse now.

        World is ruined by the anti-fun brigade. Bloody fascists.

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