2 minute read

Is hardware hacking becoming more accessible in the development context?

A positive psychologist friend once explained the concept of (watch as I butcher the terms and descriptions) “flow” to me. I understood it as working on things which are interesting, difficult, but not so overwhelmingly difficult that you can’t make clear progress on. Importantly, also not so easy that you just breeze mindlessly through. Good logic puzzles, programming, and such things are often found on this razor’s edge between too difficult and too easy.

Hardware hacking has long been a task which only a small, geeky set of people can really enjoy a flow state while exploring the dark magics of hardware.

Last night I shared some pints with DC-area OLPC fans , Mike Lee showed off an Acer he’d hacked a Pixel Qi screen into. Now, this is not a hack for the faint of heart (yet), but it’s pretty amazing in the world of the mostly-sealed, non-user-hackable laptop setups to be able to swap in a new screen, especially not one provided in a kit from the original manufacturer.


OLPC of course led this charge with their bold attempt (and respectable finish) at making their hardware 100% open source (mostly) and designed to be fixed in the field. While I don’t totally buy the untrained elementary school children repairing computers, I have seen some frighteningly capable teens tear down OLPC XOs and rebuild them.

I love the approach Pixel Qi is taking by making their screens intentionally hackable into other systems, and hope that more components will move this way – quickly.