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A mother lode of cyber invention

June 12, 2005|Casey Dolan

DIY has come a long way since the days when your uncle Jebediah devised a talking toilet seat in his garage. Nowadays, he would be posting a link to his inventions on, the online format for the magazine Make.

Make, also available in a print format, is an emporium of links to inventions and high-blown concepts that range from the useful (how to charge a "nonrechargable" dead battery or convert vegetable oil to biodiesel fuel) to the bizarre.

In Make, which debuted in February from O'Reilly Media, a dead frog in formaldehyde can become the repository for a miniature computer that stores a website capable of triggering movements in the corpse through a blue Ethernet cable. Envisioning your old computer mouse as a robot, or considering podcasting? So are Make's contributors, who offer step-by-step guides to each.

Occasionally, postings delve into legal gray areas, such as one inventor's DVD decrypter (he has since been served a cease-and-desist order for circumventing copyright protection) and another's dubious development of a physical window in a monitor screen.

The emphasis is on renewable resources and environmentally friendly alternatives to existing products.

And through it all runs a palpable level of schoolboy glee. Novices may have a tough time deciphering some of the lexicon -- many of the inventor blogs cater to initiates into the cyberwonk subculture. But the sense of delight easily translates -- and it's infectious.

-- Casey Dolan

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