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Bespoke Devices: London Workshops Demystify The Guts of Personal Technology

A "habedashery for technology" tweaks the culture of tech helplessness by teaching how to repair and customize gadgets.

Everyone dreads the moment when their tablet, laptop, or iPhone turns from helpful friend to ardent foe, leaving the owner clueless and looking to the manufacturer for help or for a new device altogether.

Creative husband and wife team Daniel Hirschmann and Bethany Koby want you to know what to do when your gadget quits. They believe that technology is most beneficial to our lives when we understand how it works can tailor it to our individual needs.

The duo calls their London-based startup—Technology Will Save Us—a “haberdashery for technology.” Their workshops and kits demystify things like micro-controllers and circuit boards and reignite the joy that comes from making something, whether it's foldable speakers or a thirsty plant detector.

The ‘aha’ moment came years ago when the pair found a laptop in a trashcan at their apartment complex. It turned out to be completely functional, after a simple software reboot. After donating the perfectly good computer to a local charity, they realized it was time to put their respective backgrounds—Koby works in brand innovation and Hirschmann in physical computing—to productive use.

“As a culture, when it comes to technology, we’re so removed,” Koby said. “We love using it, but we don’t know how to fix it when it’s broken, we don’t know what to do with it when we don’t want it anymore, let alone how to solve our own problems with it—we basically depend on big corporations to give us the next thing to solve our problem.”

Increasingly, many people are rejecting the assumption that technology is always a positive addition to our lives. With this in mind, Koby said that they intended the startup’s name to be a provocative conversation starter. Because TWSU deals with technology predominately in its physical sense—not as apps and code—Koby sees a distinction between what they’re promoting and the passive consumption of technology.

“I agree that technology does consume us and I think as humans we kind of want to be consumed by things,” Koby said. “But spending two hours soldering a musical instrument is not the same thing as spending two hours on Facebook. We’re trying to understand tech in the most magical, physical way.”

Koby was excited by a recent workshop whose attendees were, unintentionally, all female, a rarity in a typically male-dominated field. With their least expensive kit costing just £12 (just under $20) and their London workshops routinely filling up in advance, TWSU’s main goal is making technology accessible, particularly to people who have had little exposure to its working parts.

“The world we imagine is a little less sci-fi robots taking over the world and a little more bespoke, a little more ‘my device doesn’t have to look like your device,’ and a little more meaningful,” Koby said. “Our devices mean more because we’ve done something to them to make them our own.”

Photo courtesy of Daniel Hirschmann

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