All you need is a good idea and a little Kickstarter

As a software developer I can appreciate how important it is to have good ideas. The challenge is making them reality. Also it is not enough just to be taught a skill, one needs to be able to put it to work doing something valuable to others. Some of the best ideas come from people who aren't just trying to make a buck, but who love what they are doing and see the real value in it.

Sadly many a good idea never makes it beyond the drawing board. But some people don't give up so easily and with a little Kickstarter amazing things can happen. Recently, I discovered two unique examples of very good ideas turned into reality by taking advantage of this unique website.

3D Printing with PrintrBot

This one really excited me, as I am really interested in 3D printing. While there have been some great efforts to make 3D printing affordable, such as MakerBot and the open source RepRap, it still costs quite a bit to get started with 3D printing. Then along came someone with the idea for PrintrBot, with the goal to bring the price down so low that it truly can become a reality for many people. The design for PrintrBot is also quite unique with some amazing features compared to others. Combined with the help of the website Kickstarer, this one just may become a reality.

KickStarter's concept is simple: Crowdsourced funding. Inventors post their ideas on the site and seek funding for their projects. The people behind PrintrBot had a goal of raising $25,000 via Kickstarter. Their idea is so good though that they not only got funded, but they raised over $830,000 -- and they are on their way to turning a great idea into a reality.

A Boy with a Great Idea!

A young man named James Hardman (with the help of his father) also has a very interesting idea. The project at Kickstarter is not fully funded yet, but I'm impressed by his idea and desire to make it a reality. Hardman's plan is to build very large tablet PCs (17 inch for example). What caught my attention, and it's something not even the big computer companies have done: Make such tablets easily upgradable -- just like we can do with our desktop computers.

One advantage desktop computers have over both tablets and laptops is that they are designed so you can easily upgrade them from the CPU to the graphics card. When was the last time you saw a tablet computer or a laptop where you could easily swap out the CPU to a better one or change its graphics chip ?

The amazing thing is how young James is and yet he is working hard to make his idea a reality and Kickstarter just might make it possible.

Interview with James Hardman

I contacted Hardman, and he graciously answered questions about the project.

How did you learn about how to build a Tablet PC?

I knew how to build a desktop, and I knew all the components of an iPad. I took my knowledge and came up with a way to integrate a touchscreen on an old laptop I had.

Why did you chose 17 inches for the size?

Mostly because I liked big screens on mobile devices, and I knew other people who did too. Also partially because I had a 17-Inch laptop I wanted to repurpose.

Do you really think it is possible to build a Tablet PC that can have upgradeable parts?

Definitely. The only reason why most laptops are not upgradeable is because all the parts (i.e. the CPU) are soldered into their sockets. With the tablet I am integrating desktop upgradeability, meaning all parts can be replaced, as long as the part is compatible with the motherboard.

Are you interested in making it compatible with Windows 8?

Yes, but it would not be our preferred operating system. We are currently thinking of developing an operating system called ULOS, that would be able to run Windows, Mac, and Linux programs at the same time.

Where do you get the parts for your prototype?

The main parts included an old Dell e1700 laptop from my home, and the touchscreen from a wholesaler in China. In addition, there were many more minor parts, such as the USB touchscreen controller, and the cables attaching everything (i.e. the touchscreen and display) to the motherboard.

What is the biggest challenge for you with this project?

The biggest challenge thus far, has been getting my project out to people. This project has been struggling with the lack of knowledge that this project even exists.

What is your motivation for doing this project?

My main motivation for this project was to be the first to develop a product of its class.

Do you have any other people who will help you with this project if you get funded?

I have a motherboard manufacturer that is ready to produce the motherboards for my tablet, and all they need is money. I also have the support of my family members.

What do you think of the Kickstarter concept and why did you chose to use it to fund your project ?

I believe that crowdfunding sites are the future of start-up funding. In the next 20 years, I believe most start-ups will be funded through crowdfunding sites. I chose Kickstarter in particular because of it's simplicity and how well-known it is.

Good Ideas are Worth Working For !

It's remarkable to see tools like Kickstarter make something like start-up funding social. Some product we may someday use in the mass market may have started from crowdsourced funding. I can really envision myself possibly getting a PrintrBot in the future if the price is right. Also like James Hardman, I surely look forward to the time when an investment in a tablet PC also allows me the opportunity to extend my investment by easily upgrading it with off-the-shelf parts, rather than just throw it away for the latest more powerful one.

So let the good ideas keep coming!

Chris Boss is an advanced Windows API programmer and developer of 10 year-old EZGUI, which is now version 5. He owns The Computer Workshop, which opened for businesses in the late 1980s. He originally developed custom software for local businesses. Now he develops programming tools for use with the PowerBasic compiler.

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