In 1900 about 40 percent of Americans (40 million) lived on farms, and a similar percentage worked on farms. All farms had machinery and woodworking shops, and the people living and working on farms knew how to repair equipment, make furniture, and build almost anything they needed. People were makers by necessity, and as a result they acquired many useful DIY skills that they applied to their leisure activities as well.
Today, fewer than 2 percent of Americans live or work on farms. Most people aren’t makers by necessity, and the flood of cheap junk from China starting in the 70s resulted in people not caring about repairing the stuff they owned. Everything became disposable.
But along with throwing away stuff, we also threw away a rich, rewarding sense of self-reliance that comes from being able to make, mend, and maintain the things around us. But in recent years, for a variety of reasons that Frauenfelder will describe, people have rediscovered the joy of DIY.
Mark Frauenfelder is the editor-in-chief of MAKE magazine and the founder of the blog, Boingboing.net (which is ranked by Technorati as the world’s most popular blog).
He was an editor at Wired from 1993-1998. For several years, he wrote a monthly technology column for Playboy magazine and has written for The New York Times Magazine, Popular Science, and The Hollywood Reporter.
Mark is the author of several books, including The Happy Mutant Handbook (1995, Riverhead), a guide to offbeat pop culture, Mad Professor (2003, Chronicle), a book of bizarre science experiments for kids, World’s Worst (2005, Chronicle), a guide to the worst stuff on Earth, The Computer (2005, Carlton books), an illustrated history of computers, and Rule the Web (2007, St. Martins), a guide to online tricks and tips. His next book, The World in Your Hands, will be published in 2009 by Penguin.