Thursday, January 13, 2011

Random Encounters: Making Things

When I was growing up I always wanted to make things. I mean, I usually had no idea what it actually entailed and I wasn't exactly crafty, but I wanted it to happen.

Recently my mom reminded me of when I got it into my head that I was going to build a robot, likely because I'd seen something on television (a toy, a kit, a science show) that took the idea of a robot from fictional-cool and made it oh-this-is-real. She told me that she felt so bad because I obviously really wanted it, and I was sure that just a quick trip to the hardware store and some guidance from my parents could make it happen.

I told her that I've never forgotten that.

"Well," I thought, "If people can make a robot with real stuff, like screws and batteries and wheels, it must be something I can do."

CAROLL : Cheap Autonomous Robot for On Line Learning
This is totally NOT something I made.

I collected materials from around the house and put them in a brown paper bag. Screws, string, maybe some wire, nuts and bolts, a few batteries. Were there pennies in there? Probably.

That was 1986 or so.

I kept that rumpled brown bag for a long time, long after I'd sort-of-realized-but-not-really-accepted that it didn't work that way.

Around the same time I wrote stories (I vaguely remember one about a little boy who goes to find Jack Frost, and becomes Jack Frost; my dad had it typed up), and a few years later I drew very short and strange super-hero comic books. Thanks to the Cub Scouts I got some basics of building simple things out of wood, and even did a block print once (our Scout Leader was a local artist).

When I was 12 I wanted to design a video game, and once again had absolutely no clue what that entailed. Some friends and I designed levels and pitches and concepts, filling up pages of notebooks with doodles and sketches.

Funny story, it was one of my friends saying that he'd found papers about the highly technical process of making video games "on the information superhighway" (essentially Usenet articles by programmers, in a language that would have been so far over our heads as be out of sight, but we didn't know that at the time) that got me to bug my parents about getting an internet service.

Later there were short stories, poems, attempts at drawing again, roleplaying game ideas, and more. At one point I wanted to make a one-string blues guitar but didn't, and there's really no excuse not to do that.

I mean, look at it!

I'm probably forgetting lots of things.

They weren't all forgotten or put away. I've actually finished (or, in the case of the middle link, did more than I thought I would at the start) small projects here and there, even making a tiny bit of money off selling one as a book, and I have plenty of fun just messing around with them as they come.

Anyway, as I sit here and try to fight off my brain's latest distractions (writing down the various aspects of these new RPG ideas for later use) while trying to study... I think about Michael and all the things he's going to want to do.

What will he want to build? Or draw? Or write?

I don't know. I don't have the first clue. But I can't wait to find out, and I'm actually excited enough about it that I bought books of activities for things we can make together months before he was born.

We're going to make things!

...maybe even a robot!