August 15, 2005
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects: FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop
FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your DesktopFrom Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication by Neil Gershenfeld, Basic Books, 270 Pages, $26.00 Hardcover, April 2005, ISBN 0465027458 When Bill Gates talks, many listen. On July 1 of this year, we posted a list of books that Bill told us we have to read. I was familiar with four of the five listed and agreed that they were important books. So I ordered a copy of number five. It is the subject of this review. Bill is right. This is a book that is important because it talks about what the author thinks is the next trend in personal technology. He calls it personal fabrication (PF). As he states:
"At the intersection of physical science and computer science, programs can process atoms as well as bits, digitizing fabrication in the same way that communications and computation were earlier digitized. Ultimately, this means that a programmable personal fabricator will be able to make anything, including itself, by assembling atoms. It will be a self-reproducing machine"The author goes on to state:
"The biggest implement to PF is not technical; it's already possible to effectively do it. And it's not training; the just-in-time peer-to-peer project based model works as well in the field as at MIT (where this was developed and where the author teaches). Rather, the biggest limitation is simple the lack of knowledge that this is even possible. Hence this book. FAB tells the stories of pioneering personal fabrication users, and the tools they are using. Because both are so striking. I've interwoven their stories in pairs of chapters that explore emerging applications and the processes that make them possible. The not-so-hidden agenda is to describe not only who is doing what but also how, providing introductions to the tools that are similar to the orientations we give at MIT and in the field. These stop just short of hands-on training; a final section gives enough detail on the products, programs, and processes used to duplicate whats shown in the book."The stories of applications are fun because they are all over the board--from India to Africa to Boston. This is a science book with huge business applications. Check it out and remember Bill knowsor for you Mac users, Steve knows.