[rp-ml] Terminology, progress, and moving on

From: Marshall Burns <ListMail_at_fabbers.com>
Date: Mon Jan 26 2009 - 08:28:04 EET


Hi folks,


            It's been a long time since I've pitched in here. It was good to
see Elaine Hunt, Michael Reese, Brock Hinzmann, and others from the early
days post recently, so I'll join in as well. Hello to all my old friends and
to the new people who are carrying the torch of this exciting technology
into the future.




            Terminology was something that I spoke about a lot when I was
involved in this field in the 1990s. Those of you who know my work will
recall that I suggested strongly that the machines we are talking about are
nothing but fabricators. I've never understood why anyone wants to call them
anything else. After a while, I suggested the shorter form, "fabbers," which
some people seemed to like.


            I won't rehash my arguments for the terminology here, but if you
want to see what I wrote about it in the past, you can look at:


Section on "Automated Fabrication" in "The Freedom to Create", 1994



Section, "Definition and types of 'fabricator'" in

"The Origins and Direction of the Fabricator Revolution", 1997




Tech progress


            Some people have also talked in recent e-mails about
disappointment in the progress in this field. I am one who was astounded by
the yawn with which the technology was received in most corners of the
world. Fabricators were coming along at around the same time as the
Internet, and while the latter became the basis for a huge industry and
several major business hits, fabbers have remained, in the minds of most
people, a mostly-forgotten afterthought of the 20th century. I have no doubt
that the fabber revolution will get into full gear eventually, probably in
synch with the related nanotech revolution, but in the meantime, I don't
understand why Chuck Hull and Carl Deckard (founders of 3D Systems and DTM)
aren't peers of David Filo and Jeff Bezos (of Yahoo and Amazon).


            If you want to see how off the mark my predictions were, take a
look at a brief talk I gave in Austin shortly after my book, "Automated
Fabrication," came out:


"The Household Fabricator", 1993



            I was asked by the conference organizers to say where I saw the
technology being in 15 years. Well, 15 from then was last year, 2008. I
described a new housing subdivision going up with homes designed to take
advantage of the family fabricator. Since that time, we've had dramatic
material improvements, ink-jet fabbers, and low-cost, easy-to-use 3D CAD.
But public perception of the technology is still essentially non-existent
and utilization is still at the highest altitudes of high-tech. In terms of
timing, my vision was about as wrong as it could be. We're not any more than
incrementally closer to it today than we were when I described it.



What I've been up to


            There have been requests for old folks to say what we've been
doing. I gave up on trying to bring my own machine to market in the early
2000s. While dazed by that failure, I was hit by some personal tragedy in my
life around the same time as well as the shock of the World Trade Center
attack and the ensuing invasion of Iraq. Like a lot of other people, I began
asking questions about the role of the US in the world and history. I spent
most of 2004 wandering around in my car, came back to LA and taught a few
classes on advanced manufacturing at USC, then I spent the first half of
2007 traveling in Africa and India seeking to understand the effect of my
(white, wealthy, "Western") culture on other parts of the world. I wrote
about the devastating lessons I learned in an essay from Kenya, which you
can find on my personal website (linked below) in the "Philosopher" section.


            When I came back from that trip, I got involved in research on
an even more controversial problem in our society. I've spent the last year
and a half researching it and am talking with some people about launching a
new website with the results of that research. After that happens, I'll
probably post something about it on my own site, but it's scary because it's
a very unpopular subject that most people prefer to pretend does not exist.


            I submitted what I hope is my final draft of the research
results for that website a couple of days ago. I intend to remain committed
to further research on that subject, but I'm asking myself how to best focus
my energies next. I'm thinking about law school, but I don't know.


            My life is not always fun, but it's never dull.


Still dreaming after all these years,


www.MBurns.com <http://www.mburns.com/>

www.fabbers.com <http://www.fabbers.com/> (woefully outdated)

Received on Mon Jan 26 08:36:43 2009

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