On the “Right” Side of the Digital Divide

There is a digital divide in this country. It is between people who are computer literate and have ready access to high speed internet and those who are either computer illiterate or do not have internet access (or both). On the day that my dad walked into a computer store in 1979 and wrote a check while saying, “beat you to the bank”, I’ve been on the favorable side of the digital divide.

One thing that is on my side of the digital divide is a 3D printer, which I believe is a game changing technology. Let me give you an example.

A few days ago, my son was cooking something in the microwave and when it was done, he opened the door and tore the handle right off. In looking at the damage, this was not a surprise. The handle was really pretty poorly designed (thanks, GE). It was held on by two screw that went though the door into bosses in the handle. Both bosses sheared right off. The bosses were too weak.

Before 3D printing, my options would have been: buy a new handle (I checked GE’s web site and a replacement handle costs $80, just shy of 1/3 of a replacement unit), or $45 on eBay. I’m sorry, but a chunk of plastic doesn’t cost $45, let alone $80. At this point, I was considering making a replacement out of wood. I have some nice walnut that’s just waiting for something like this, but that involves time I don’t have.

Instead, I did this:

I knocked together a quick design in 123-D and printed two mounting brackets. When I made the design, I had assumed that I had some scrap 5/8″ copper pipe in my shop. After I printed them, I found that I did not, but I did have 1/2″ aluminum pipe and some Sugru, which I used to seal up the joints. Problem solved, albeit a bit of a bodge.

What still remains is the digital divide. If you’re reading this, I can guess which side you’re on and it’s probably not the side that needs help. One thing you can do is to find a way to support maker spaces and access to technology. And this means your local library. Many libraries offer access to high speed internet, help with technology, and in some cases maker spaces. Do what you can to help your library and you will be narrowing the digital divide. And this is a very good thing.

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