Notes

First Drafts, Conversations, Stories in Progress

#MakeEveryWeek: A Series for Inventors
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Andrew McGill is chronicling the devices and apps he’s creating this summer and invites readers to join him. Are you an inventor and want to share a project? Please drop him a note: hello@theatlantic.com.

Show 5 Newer Notes

A Watch App That Finds Open Bikeshare Stations

If you live in the Washington, D.C., area, you’re probably familiar with Capital Bikeshare. And if you don’t, I bet the nearest American city might have something like it: A system of public bicycles available for rent, strategically placed throughout town for point-to-point trips. If you have a membership or a credit card, you can check out a bike at a kiosk, ride it to your destination and re-dock it at the nearest Bikeshare station. It’s one of my favorite things about the D.C. area.

But! There are few things more annoying than wrapping up a satisfying ride and pulling into bikeshare dock ... that is completely full.

It’s also a bummer to walk up to a station and discover that all the bikes have been taken.

Ilya Naymushin / Reuters

It’s never been easier to be a mad scientist. Back in the day, it took so much work: You had to rent a dungeon, fashion your own Tesla coils, and spend half your life reading cracked leather tomes written your equally deprived predecessors.

Not so anymore. Computers are small, fast and cheap, allowing a D.I.Y. types to slap a microprocessor on pretty much anything, and for less than $50. The internet can deliver a tutorial in an instant and any electronic component within a few days. And easy-to-program platforms have made controlling physical objects with code not only possible, but practical.

All this is great for a would-be inventor. Unless, like me, your drive to work on a project (which seemed so strong in the morning!) somehow gives way to an evening of Alias reruns night after night. Life gets in the way.

So here’s my resolution: Following the lead of WNYC journalist James Keefe, I’m resolving to buckle down and make a new thing every week this summer. It’ll ideally be a real thing—something you can see and could hold, not just ephemeral code powering an app. (Though I’m still keeping the ephemeral code door open if I hit a rough patch.) I’ll document what I’m doing through this thread, as well as more technical write-ups on my own blog. So far, I’ve built a smartwatch app that searches for nearby public bicycles and a silent doorbell for when my coworkers get locked out of the office.

Are you a time-crunched tinkerer? Please join me this summer by sharing your projects: hello@theatlantic.com. What have you built in the past? What are you working on now? And what should I build next?