Saturday, March 9, 2013

Your Kid Can Become the Next Bill Gates

Altair 8800, January 1975
I recall reading an interview with Bill Gates a while back where he talked about how chance had played a big part in his success.  He was fortunate that the school he attended had a computer and that his parents were well off enough to buy him an early PC.  Granted he had a lot of talent and worked really hard, but he got an early start with computers in large part by being in the right place at the right time. 

I remember those early years of the PC, the late 70's and early 80's.  Those PCs were not what they are now. They were mostly kits or very clunky boxes of wire & solder.  They were also very limited.  You couldn't really do much with them, but the fascination was that they were programmable.  They were a little expensive, about $300 at the time.  Most people did not buy a PC until 10 years later.

Fast forward 40 years.  There is a new technology that reminds me a lot of those early PCs.  The technology is called 3D printing. 3D printers create three dimensional objects by using a “printing” process not too dissimilar from your desktop inkjet printer, but instead of extruding ink they extrude materials like plastics, metals, ceramic powders, or even edible material.  They are clunky and expensive and can't really do much, but they have an avid nerd following.   

To my mind this is the kernel of what will be a great new technology in about 10 years.  If you want your son or daughter to be the next Bill Gates buy them a 3D printer now.  Prices start around $300.

MakerBot 3D Printer

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