Arduino, Arduino, I Hate You. You Stink.

…I wish I could flush you down the sink.

I’m going to be honest. Technology scares me. The thought of having to do anything remotely high tech paralyzes me. Even using the laser cutter to cut cardboard took encouragement from my peers. But it’s an inevitable truth of my new profession that I will one day need to admit defeat and learn how to CAD, program and wire.

In an attempts to mitigate this fear, I signed up for a course entitled “Interactive Products.” In this course we would learn about integrating technology, inputs and outputs into designs. The first part of the semester was doable, filled with Little Bits and Lego Mindstorms. I was on a high. I can do this! IMG_20150307_141830_417

But then the day came. This week, we began the Arduino project. Suddenly I was confronted with wires, and sensors, and coding, and programming, and inputs, and outputs, and lions, and tigers, and bears…oh my! In less that a week, I was supposed to design a toy or game that had two inputs (including and RFID) as well as 2 outputs that included an audio/visual output.

I sat in class staring at the bread board for over an hour, my professor and TA preoccupied with other students. It seemed like everyone around me knew exactly what they were doing and that I was being left in the dust. But I remained strong!

On Saturday, I enlisted my roommate who is getting her masters in electrical engineering. There were hickups, and mishaps, buy things were chugging along. We had this in the bag! No sweat! That is…until we got the evil Java error message. Well, over the next 3.5 hours I consulted my roommate, my classmate who is an Arduino god, my TA, and just about every other person I knew who had any knowledge of Arduino. Nothing. I took a break for a few hours, and revisited it later in the evening. Nothing. I even consulted my roommate getting her masters in Aerospace Engineering, as had the Arduino God take control of my computer remotely to figure it out.

Untitled 3 copy

By this point, I was a ball of mush. I was at my wits end. Finally, we figured it out. The problem? Well, it turns out that my brand new fancy pants computer is SO new, th

at it was not compatible with the processing software used with Arduino. So much for a new computer! But, it was OK. I still had my old Mac. I could just download it there.

NOPE!

Turns out my old mac is too old. It was a case of Goldilocks and the 2 Macs. I then proceeded to try and download Windows onto my Mac only to find that I didn’t have a properly sized USB, and that I would need to…oh yeah…buy Windows. So, I guess that’s not an option.

And this brings me to today. With the assignment due Tuesday, and no progress made, I ask you to excuse me while I go turn into a ball of mush in the corner of my apartment while eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and watching Notting Hill. Say a prayer for me, good friends, and send me any good Karma you can spare.

Good luck, my brave Arduino warriors.

Advertisements

Object Permanence: Associating Nostalgia with Object Value

In January of 2008, I bought my very first computer. It was a white MacBook, and I had been saving waitressing tips for months in order to pay for it. It was arguably the most expensive thing I had ever purchased. I was entering my first semester of college and I knew couldn’t show up to the first day of school without a shiny new plaything.

Seven years later, to the date, I found myself purchasing my second MacBook. This time, however, the $1500 price tag seemed like chump change compared to my student loan debt and surprisingly high credit limit. The employee at the Apple store was beaming with excitement over my purchase, exclaiming, “Oh, how exciting! Are you not so excited to get home and set this up?”

I appreciated her enthusiasm, truly, but there was something oddly bittersweet about the whole experience. Granted, I now had the latest and greatest MacBook Pro. It had a retina display, fancy interface features, and more ram, guts and glory than I knew what to do with. But as I got home and plugged my Time Machine into my new computer, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad staring at my first MacBook now relocated to the corner of my living room.
IMG_20150110_182036

How often is it that we own something for seven years? Cars? Technology? Clothes? There are very few things I have owned for as long as my Mac. The past 7 years of my life have been incredibly transformational, filled with the highest highs and lowest lows and little consistency in between. So, when an object, such as a computer, has served as one of the few common denominators in my life, it seems natural that I would form an attachment to it. Right? I wrote term papers on my Mac, watched movies with my friends, emailed far away crushes and lovers, and procrastinated on Buzzfeed. My MacBook was an undeniable fixture of my life. It housed my creative writing, my art, my favorite cooking blogs—all of the things that made me…me.

I remember a few years back reading an article by the president of Patagonia. In the article, he spoke at length about the importance of investing in quality products. He argued that it was critical to consider the longevity of an object’s life, while also weighing the ethics behinds its production, and the quality of its material. When we do this, he stated that we would be more likely to financially invest more, and also be less likely to dispose of them thereby contributing less to the global waste stream.

I found a significant amount of validity in his argument. In fact, as a burgeoning industrial designer, this is one of the ideas that I grapple with the most. When the success of my career relies on making desirable things, how do I ensure that I make quality goods consumers will value and not merely discard for the next best thing? How do I, as a designer, make my profession’s equivalent of the MacBook Pro—and object that can last over seven years, and be valued not merely for its function but its significance in the users daily life.

As my Time Machine sync finished, I placed on the Two Sisters Cafe sticker I had been saving for a new computer since I went to visit my brother in Alaska this past August. It was the first step in making this new machine my own. I don’t know how long I will have this new computer. Nor can I say what the next seven years of my life will look like. I can only hope that this machine will stay with me for as long as the first one did, and that I hope the next seven years are as blessed and transformative as the past seven have been.

IMG_20150118_171421