Making Electronic Thingies in Amsterdam
META was founded in April 2006 to form a free and open platform of knowledge exchange and support to its members and to discuss its influences on art in general.
META can be seen as a deregulated and local self study group in electronics. All activities and public appearances are determent by META's members, who come from a wide field of activities and motivation.
META stands for Making Electronic Thingies in Amsterdam.
- To stay informed or join the group please sign up to our mailinglist or RSS feed
- For an overview on our workshops please take a look at our workshop history or workshop announcements.
- For an overview on our meetings please visit the next meeting announcement or the past meetings
- For member's listing you can visit our 'participants' section.
- For a more general picture you can visit our flickr group.
META members are artists, students, teachers and professionals in all kinds of disciplines like: Art, Multimedia, Interface- Graphic- Audio- and Web Design, Music Composition, you name it.
Others are simply interested without belonging to one of these categories.
Take a look at the Participants to get an idea of who's participating.
Anyone can join: rookie or expert, hipster or nerd, vegan or carnivore, Mac or PC.
We have an RSS feed, a mailinglist and meetings every 1st monday of the month. If you are interested please do sign up to one these channels or attend to one of our meetings.
We also frequently organize workshops that are supervised by experts and usually take a whole weekend. Check out the pictures at our flickr.com site and check out “Upcoming...” for new workshop dates.
Finally our biggest pride: the Blinking LED Award which we have established to support and give credit to those that have achieved good things. (or thingies)
Making Electronic Thingies in Amsterdam
Meta is a self-help group for artists, designers and other makers who want to learn and do more with electronics. With the majority of our members living in Amsterdam, we host lectures and organize workshops in an effort to teach ourselves how to design and manufacture our own circuit board, how to program tiny microcontroller chips and what the difference between all those electronic parts is or how to solder them.
On the dormant mailing list firstname.lastname@example.org, a remnant of a group called the anatomics, who once held weekly chat & tinker meetings in the attic of the Waag, the Theatrum Anatomicum, in April 2006 a call was posted for classes in electronics. In the thread that followed, besides bringing back good memories from the time of anatomics, the request was made to look for three components: a teacher, a location to host the classes and people who were interested to receive lessons in electronics. Interested people and a location were quickly found as the list members offered their own studio as a place to meet. A teacher was somewhat more difficult since our best candidate just planned a long trip to China. We decided to start with teaching ourselves what individuals already knew, just sharing our knowledge with show and tell.
The members of meta steadily expanded and now we are a mixed bunch of makers from a diverse range of professions: artists, multimedia designers, interface engineers, graphic designers, web designers, audio engineers, music composers, and a whole bunch of people who are just interested and don't want to conform to one of these categories. Also the level of expertise is quite diverse, we have beginners who are just discovering Ohm's law and we have experts who have their own multilayered circuit boards manufactured and put in production.
Our main goal was to teach ourselves how to construct our own electronic thingies, pieces of electronic art, funny gadgets, or just strange electronic objects. We wanted to learn how to design the electronic circuits for our thingies, how to know which electronic parts to get and where to get them, what all those different chips are and what the process is to program these chips. And we wanted to get hands-on experience with that. Electronic engineering is a complex profession in which there are always multiple solutions for a problem, each solution with their own set of pros and cons. Also, making a redesign in electronic engineering usually takes much more time than a redesign of say, graphic design or software. However, on the other hand, electronic engineering allows much more for circuit bending and hacking. Still, the hardest part of making your electronic thingies work is debugging them. After you designed your circuit, soldered the parts together and applied current on the circuit, you hope it all works. When it doesn't, something which happens quite too often, a brain racking process begins of finding out where the culprit part is. We're here to help each other with that process.
Meta is firmly a local community, we even have our home base, Amsterdam right there in our name. We operate locally partly because you just learn much more from real contact with your peers, than this would be when you communicate only over an electronic medium. Another important reason for being physically bound and having physical meetings, is because we emphasizing on the hardware aspect of electronics, much more than on various software solutions which exist to accomplish sometimes the same results. We feel that there are plenty opportunities to learn about software and programming, out there in the world and on the web. This has to do with the nature of software itself. It is very easy to mail a few lines of software code to an online community, requesting for tips to improve it. It is very easy to run some piece of software you receive digitally from somebody. And when the code doesn't work, it often returns an error message in text that can be mailed again or looked up on the web. There are tons of websites, mailinglists, wikis and fora all dedicated to specific software solutions, where people exchange their code, tips and tricks on a daily basis.
With hardware this is quite different. To check if a drawn schematic circuit is exactly copied onto a prototype board, it is often necessary to physically hold the piece, inspect the front and the back and see if all the connections are well soldered, or measure it physically with a multi meter or with an oscilloscope. And if you find an erroneously behaving electronic component, you cannot just mail that part to the a mailing list and request for somebody to fix it. This is why it is necessary to have physical meetings, bring your projects and show and tell about them.
On the other hand, with todays broadband web services like flickr or youtube, a new wave of special interest groups seem to surface. Grassroot communities seem to emerge everywhere, driven by the new possibilities that online communication offer. You see that also those hard to tell stories and do-it-yourself walkthrough gets posted online. O'reilly's magazine 'Make:' and instructables.com seem to be clear examples from this new interest in hacking hardware and making 'thingies'. Maybe meta are also part of this second wave.
We hold monthly meeting, we organize workshops, we have an active mailing list and we maintain a wiki. On the wiki we try to document our projects and our activities. The mailing list is used to discuss current topics and to get some immediate answers on the projects you're stuck with. In the workshops, which normally take place during a weekend, we try to delve deep into a subject, led by an expert, covering both the theoretical and practical aspect of the topic. Such workshops tend to get us quite into the vibe and the participants often produce a lot of wonderful results. The meetings are just one monday evening, the first monday of the month. We try to encourage our members to give little lectures or do a mini-workshop, so the evenings are mostly quite filled. The topics we address during these meetings can be really in depth, like the ins and outs of a toolchain (the different tools you need in sequence) to program PIC microcontroller chips. But we also talk about more light topics like an overview of RFID or what are logic gates.
Meta is cordially welcoming new members to join us.