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Nottingham Hack Groups…

…and not a journalist in sight. Hack, in this sense, refers not to that colloquialism beloved of the film noir genre, but to the practice of re-purposing items in a way their makers never intended. Ostensibly it applies to what can broadly be called ‘tech gubbins’, though increasingly one is known as a ‘hacker’ if one creates any kind of interesting device from scratch, too.

If you’re not involved in the scene at all, the word might conjure up ideas of nefarious activity, grubby teenagers hunched over flickering screens in their bedrooms, and ne’er-do-wells stood at cashpoints with cables trailing around them. In reality, hackers are nothing like (although, in the world of IT, there is a cool distinction between ‘black-hat’ and ‘white-hat’ security); instead hackers are brought together by a shared enjoyment of figuring out how stuff works and, as already said, how to make stuff work better. Think of the classic British inventor type, and pull that idea forward into the connected world, and you’ll be more than half-way there.

I’ve long enjoyed checking out what the world’s hackers have been able to accomplish. Due to the very nature of hacking, most results have a very heavy technology focus – turning videogame consoles into general purpose computers, for example, or fans of hobbyist electronics ‘accidentally’ giving birth to the most exclusive and valuable computer brand of all (yes, Apple was started by a hacker). Up until now, however, there hasn’t been any way of getting involved in the scene locally.

What I’m obviously leading up to here is that Nottingham has spawned some hacking groups of its own. They’re both still in their early stages, but that’s all the more reason to get involved early – grow your hacking skills with the groups!

Nottinghack (provisional name only) is being set up as a group for ‘hackers, makers and crafty creators’. That means that you don’t need to know your resistor from your diode to get involved, just have an interest in

electronics, robotics, DIY, hardware hacking, photography, computing, reverse engineering, prototyping, film making, animation, building RC vehicles and other creative challenges and projects.

So, if that sounds like fun, or even if you just want to get to know a bit more about the inner workings of your gadgets, join the group. There’s a meetup scheduled for next Wednesday, 24th March.

The other hack group that has sprung up of late is known as LAB. Their aims are pretty similar to Nottinghack, so I hope in the future we’ll see a lot of mutual cooperation and engagement, and perhaps even some friendly rivalry…

LAB is an open space to learn, make, hack and do almost anything. Based in Nottingham we host regular events, workshops, talks. We are looking for artists, designers, hackers, makers, craftsters and social agitators to join the LAB. We operate as a community laboratory for ideas, projects and aim to be a centre for open, collaborative R&D.
LAB are meeting on Wednesday 14th April for a workshop on the Arduino, an open source electronics platform that has resulted in everything from twittering typewriters to DIY musical instruments. They ask that you bring an Arduino and a laptop to work with, so get shopping!
I hope I might’ve piqued your interest in the hacking scene; if that’s the case, there are plenty of resources out there to follow up with. Many a hacker has turned a weekend hobby into a successful business, too, so consider this a call to action to get Nottingham well and truly on the hacker’s radar…