My very first tech job was working at a local Mom & Pop computer repair and retail shop. And Pop, the owner, was eccentric. He had all kinds of catchphrases he would repeat over the years. “A business without a sign is a sign of no business!”. Is it coincidence that the shop also sold signs?
“Everything in the store is for sale except the wife.” Indeed, he would regularly sell equipment that colleagues and I relied on to do our jobs. I would show up some days, and monitors would be missing from the tech bench area. To his credit, he always managed to get more equipment in for us to use. And true to his word, Moms managed to survive the daily fire sales. I wouldn’t have be surprised if I came in one day and he traded me to the Indiana Pacers for cash considertions. It was always something with the dude.
And this guy had so many stories—wild ones. “Back in the day, we developed a driver and almost sold it to HP for a million dollars.” I was young, and it was my first real “office” job, so I didn’t question too much. I was there to learn. But every once in a while we would be alone in the office, and he was a bit different. He liked to put on a show around people, but alone we’d get into deeper stuff. And one day he came back from a client to pick up a large printout of a fancy looking car. I already mentioned the shop made signs right? Well, they were all printed on large format printers. On paper, vinyl, everything. So he’s prepping this huge car poster to take to the client when he says “you know they’re going to print these one day?”
“print what?”, I replied.
“The cars. They’re going to print the cars”, he said assuredly.
“That’s not possible.”, I responded even more assuredly.
I’m not sure why I took up a stance here, but you have to understand at the time 3D printing was not a thing. At all. Even in basic forms or as a concept. If it was, it was happening in a really fancy lab somewhere. Cue a debate on whether it would ever happen. And despite his best efforts he couldn’t convince me.
“You see this printer here? It uses ink, but they’ll do the same thing for the car. Build up the car printing layer by layer.”
I really thought this man lost his god damn mind. For whatever reason I remembered that discussion over the years. And I thought about it a lot more as hobby 3d printers become commonplace. Maybe he was right, and I was wrong? It turns out he had a bit more vision than I did. And it didn’t take that long.
Almost exactly ten years later the worlds first “mostly” 3d printed car was released.
Damn it. How the hell did he know that? That realization changed me a lot. I was so smugly against the possibility of the idea. Only four years after the first we’re finally seeing prototypes for fully 3D printed cars. This technology isn’t going to slow down.
What else is out there on the horizon that i’m missing? Where will new and old technologies coverge to create something different that seemed impossible before? I try to stay more open and let my mind wander more these days.
Weekend trips to Mars? why not. Free energy systems? sure. Communication with other species. of course.
Nothing great ever happened because a bunch of people got together and decided it’s not possible. So why even start there?