Recently, my Dad backed the Printrbot Kickstarter. Our printer has arrived, and it is amazing to play with. I had seen a few 3D printers, and I knew them to be very cool, but I did not quite get it. This is ironic since I had actually made money from 3D printing with this Tesla Valve. Even though I benefited from a 3D printing service, I still did not understand the allure of having your own 3D printer. NOW I DO.

We’re at this point with 3D printers equivalent to the mini-computer kit period. There is something amazing to assembling your own machine and struggling with all of its idiosyncrasies. It is actually a disheartening and difficult experience, at the beginning. Breathing life into something is no easy task. However, when you hold your first part in your hand all memory of painful labor falls by the wayside. You become a maker.

A 3D printed Creeper from Minecraft, sitting on the Printrbot

This guy is from Minecraft. My cousin found him. Here’s the page, if you want to print him out. This is a good example of the cosmetic side of 3D printing. If you want to print out toys and familiar things, there are plenty of models out there. They don’t really do anything, but look neat.

A first pass at a clip to hold my safety belt buckle

A while ago, my belt buckle in my car broke. A piece of plastic, that prevented the buckle from sliding all the way down the belt, cracked and fell off. Now my buckle slides down beside my seat. And each time I drive, I have to reach down and get it. This is mighty annoying, but it has never been bothersome enough to go to a junkyard to try and find replacement plastic.

One of the first clips. Blobbling ruined this one. It was too thin.

3D printing changes the way your mind works, by altering the space of possibility. Now I knew I could make a better buckle clip. I could just print one out. I designed one up in my CAD program, and started printing out copies. The first one was not that great. It didn’t have enough clearance, and it suffered from some blobbiness on one end. I had to cull some plastic with a hobby knife. I knew I could do better.

A working clip. Thickened and with better tolerances.

I improved the clip and tried again. This time the results were excellent. It was my first practical model. It is a small thing to make, but not a small thing to improve one’s life.

3D printed clip successfully holding up buckle

I think 3D printing will have a bright future. In that regard, I’m thinking of starting a space in the South Bay where people can commune over 3D printing, as well as a shop to sell 3D printer parts and supplies. If anyone is interested, email me at primevector at gmail dot com. I can sure use the help.

Elliot ran through the garden of his parent’s home, thrummers flying through the air above him. There was always some air traffic, so quiet you forgot it was there. When he heard a thrummer land in the front yard he knew his Companion had arrived.

Elliot was turning ten today. The Commision thrummer opened its doors like a flower blossom, and out stepped two men. One of them was dressed in the blue of the Commision. The other was dressed in normal clothing. A black tunic with white shoes. The man moved similarly to Elliot.

The boy stopped at the side of the house, and watched as his mother walked out of the front door to welcome the men inside. They followed after her. The black tunic man in the rear, turned to Elliot’s hiding spot on the end of the house and smiled. Elliot smiled back. It was a disturbing connection.

Elliot ran to the back of the house and looked through the kitchen window. The three adults sat for tea. Conversation was polite and boring. Elliot didn’t dare come into the house. The Companion was too scary to him. A person almost exactly like him. How did the computers know the black tunic man was like Elliot. What if they were wrong.

He slammed through the back door, rushed past the adults, and into his bedroom. His mother shouted after him, appalled at his impoliteness. The Companion turned to the flustered woman and whispered something into her ear. It did the trick somehow. She sat and offered the Commision Agent another cup of tea.

The Companion slowly walked up the stairs to Elliot’s room. He remembered when he was ten, how he was so similarly scared. Yet so filled with excitement. Unable to convert his energies as he wished.

Elliot leaned against his door, hearing the footsteps of the man. A gate similar to his, yet magnified in amplitude. The companion knocked, and Elliot muttered something back.

The man was very patient, he said, “Your parents have told you all about the Companion Program.”

No answer.

“Did they tell you how we died,” the companion asked.
“No,” Elliot chirped, transformed out of his consternation by the man’s question.

The man said, “My name is Elom. And people like you and I were alcoholics until the Program started.”

“What’s an alcoholic,” asked Elliot.

Elom offered to tell, if the boy would accompany him to the backyard. Elom lived in a drought ravaged zone. He had to sit in that verdant garden.

Elliot’s mother was delighted Elom extracted Elliot from his room. She went to fuss about the kitchen, but another word from Elom caused her to calm once again. Elliot saw how Elom did it, and he marked it down in his mind. It was much better than the fights he would normally have with his parents. He began to understand the importance of his Companion.

Elliot watched the Companion put his feet in the pond.

“You said you would tell me what an alcoholic is,” Elliot queried, “Is it someone who makes wine?”

Elom explained, “It is someone who is dangerously addicted to alcoholic drinks like wine. People used to die of drinking too much of those drinks. Now it is very very rare.”

Elliot’s mother Juda did not have the opportunity to be Companioned. She and the Commision Agent watched Elliot and Elom through the window. If the twosome’s motions were eerily similar beforehand, they were now even worse. As they talked, each loosened up, and their gesture’s synchronized.

As a refugee from a drought zone, Juda was born and raised without Companion assistance. She didn’t know what it was like to have a person who was exactly like you in every important behavior. She had doubted algorithms and personality tests could find someone that is a perfect match behaviorally for her son. If Juda had known more about computers she would know the match was not actually perfect. Yet there the two were, sitting in the backyard in total harmony.

They threw rocks into the pond in a temporary silence. Elliot contemplated what Elom had said. In twelve years, if he was similar to the average for the person he was, he would have found alcohol to be incredibly interesting, or some other dangerous drug. It would have eventually wrecked his life and killed him. Yet, Elom said alcohol and a great many other things posed no risk to him if Elliot continued with the Companion Program.
Elom didn’t have any children yet. He wondered now if the rapport he had with Elliot would damage his relationship with his future children. It was not quite like having a child. Elliot and Elom were exactly twenty years apart. In many ways the relationship was a mixture of child and brother.

The Commission Agent tapped on the glass door and called out to the two. It was time for Elom to go. Optimal first visits of a Companion were roughly forty five minutes long. The Companions would be able to write each other whenever they wished, but physio-virtual contact would be limited until Elliot was twenty. Otherwise, the relationship would become damaging.

Elliot waved to Elom as the thrummer petals closed, and the pod lifted into the air. Elom could see the boy’s face change into something more optimistic. Into something less obsessed. He remembered how he felt when he met his own Companion, so long ago. Saved.