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Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop - from Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication [Hardcover]

Neil Gershenfeld
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

23 Mar 2005 0465027458 978-0465027453 First Printing
Imagine a world in which your own personalized electronic products could be made by you, in your own home. Sound like Science Fiction? Well it might not be as futuristic as you think...According to the acclaimed techno-prognosticator Neil Gershenfeld, the next big thing is personal fabrication - the ability, literally, to make your own products, in your own home, with a miniaturized machine that combines consumer electronics with industrial tools. It might sound far-fetched, but in fact it is exactly where the 'digital revolution' was at the dawn of the age of personal computers. Personal fabricators are tomorrow's personal computers. They will bring the programmability of the digital world to the rest of the world, by being able to make anything (including themselves).

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Printing edition (23 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465027458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465027453
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 17.2 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 97,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Gershenfeld's account of the technology's evolution is delicious. An accessible book that even non-technophiles will love. In fact, Fab should be required reading for foreign-service officers, managers in humanitarian agencies and others working to alleviate poverty." Business Week" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Neil Gershenfeld is the former director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, and he now directs MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms. He is the author of When Things Start to Think and has been featured in The New York Times and The Economist.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I came to this book by accident. I heard a radio programme about personal fabrication and included was a review of Neil Gershenfeld's book.I was prompted to find out more.

The book describes a mixture of zany and socially desirable case study applications of personal fabrication,the technology behind it,a discussion of the wider implications and a (too)short commentary on the dangers and ethical issues surounding self reproducing machines.

The book centres on what I would suspect will be one of the key issues of the 21st century - the development of personally customised objects as opposed to the one size fits all mass produced object. I quickly warmed to Neil Gershenfeld's enthusiasm for his subject. I was also particularly impressed by his idealism about the application of this development in helping to solve problems that are left unaddressed by the profit motive.(His illustration of how components picked up in a second hand Indian electronics market can be recycled to make effective machines to solve pressing third world agricultural and educational problems was particularly poignant) It does not take a genius however to see how this technology can be exploited and restricted for political and so called 'security' purposes. Unfortunately one suspects that the genorousity and idealism that has created the internet and allowed it to grow in the way it has may not be so apparent in the development of personalised fabrication.

The book is constructed in a rather quirky and funky fashion reflecting Neil Gershenfield's enthusiasms but deals with some of the most imoportant issues of our time that quite rightly touch on creativity,social interaction and the nature and purpose of engineering.It clearly outlines how applications of personal fabrication.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 9 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important Vision Mixed with Haphazard Hype 22 April 2005
By Peter McCluskey - Published on Amazon.com
This book brings welcome attention to the neglected field of personal, general-purpose manufacturing. He argues that the technology is at roughly the stage that computing was when minicomputers were the leading edge, is good enough to tell us something about how full-fledged assemblers as envisioned by Drexler will be used, and that the main obstacle to people using it to build what they want is ignorance of what can be accomplished.

The book presents interesting examples of people building things that most would assume were beyond their ability. But he does not do a good job of explaining what can and can't be accomplished. Too much of the book sounds like a fund-raising appeal for a charity, describing a needy person who was helped rather than focusing on the technology or design process. He is rather thoughtless about choosing what technical details to provide, giving examples of assembly language (something widely known, and hard enough to use that most of his target users will be deterred from making designs which need it), but when he describes novel ideas such as "printing" a kit that can be assembled into a house he is too cryptic for me to guess whether that method would improve on standard methods.

I've tried thinking of things I might want to build, and I'm usually no closer to guessing whether it's feasible than before I read the book. For example, it would be nice if I could make a prototype of a seastead several feet in diameter, but none of the examples the book gives appear to involve methods which could make sturdy cylinders or hemispheres that large.

The index leaves much to be desired - minicomputers are indexed under computers, and open source is indexed under software, when I expected to find them under m and o.

And despite the lip service he pays to open source software, the CAM software he wrote comes with a vague license that doesn't meet the standard definition of open source.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Topic 16 Jan 2006
By D. Rahmat - Published on Amazon.com
As noted by other reviews, the begining of the book is quite an eye opener. The examples are excellent, but the book lacks focus and deeper research into what is being done by parties to come up with a personal fab lab that as individuals we can, lets say, "print" our personalized whole shirts, coats, shoes and beyond and when. What I like most in the book is the idea of teaching students hands on. I hope educators and politicians take this seriously, since hands-on-see-the-result inspires kids to pursue science and technology. It is well worth the money and time to buy and read this book, althouhg it could be much better Maybe a second edition would do it.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Focused enough 18 July 2005
By Jeff J. Watts - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In general the book was interesting, however it seemed unfocused. Often Gershenfeld seemed to be rambling from one point to another without a logical transition. Indeed, sometimes a whole section seemed to lack a discreet point, but instead was just a series of observations.

If you enjoy the topic the book will be interesting, but it lacks enough detail to be useable as a reference and the writing isn't quite focused enough to be IMHO a good read.
60 of 82 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars FAB - Personal Destop Fabrication 5 Jun 2005
By NO BS - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
After the robot duplicating IEEE Spectrum review of 'FAB' I had to run out and pick up the book, but, as a 30yr Engineering Vet/MBA, I found it less than useful. The first 17 pages and the chapter on "The Future" was almost worth the price of the book because of its more advanced and stimulating content, however the middle 95% of the book is a rehash of decades old computer and manufacturing technology. While the book is a good introduction for kids and people new to computer technology... Explaining ASCII, 1s/0s, quoting: "RISC design...that doesn't mean they are dangerous...", an Engineer will glaze over (even with our propensity for "dry" work as noted by Gershenfeld in the text).

In reference to hydroelectric production in Ghana... "In 1996 about one gigawatt was produced for the whole country...". I would have hoped that author or some of the more clever MIT grad student proofreaders would have had the knowledge and/or diligence to differentiate between power and energy. GW-H maybe? (Myhrvold...did you open this book?)

I also feel Neil's disdain of "shady business" capitalism does his students and world citizens a disservice. Money is neutral, neither good or bad, proper management can do good things. Journalists only publish the evil that discourages. Basic business mgmt certainly isn't rocket science. I would call for the Academic Community to get involved in active competitive entrepreneurship...and be the beacon in the wilderness.

My disatisfaction was complete with the PC reference to how the advent of firearms was an "immoral" change on the battlefield...(as if murder by a closer sword was somehow moral). But the amusing part was where he later recounted a technology briefing with military/industrial complex Generals. One suggested that the fab technology should be controlled/export limited. The author was on the side that controls on his technology should not be instituted...as he agreed that the "bad guys would get their hands on it regardless of any attempted limits..." I somehow suspect that Neil is not a card carrying NRA member marching to preserve the 2nd Amendment and would still find a way to argue that a "fabbed" instrument of death is "moral" in comparison to my (locked up, but very capable) home defense Beretta. Nothing like holding two opposing thoughts in one mind.

After being teased then insulted...I am left just seeing the missed opportunity for something concrete that would move our country ahead...other than book profits.

Even though I can't afford to send my budding ME student to MIT, it is nice that we both can occasionally get to look at the OpenClassWare being sent overseas to our competitors for free. I know...I know...I am just unenlightend...sorry.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars some very good stuff here 9 May 2006
By Deborah Kahn - Published on Amazon.com
I'm a librarian and I ordered this book for my library because the reviews made it sound interesting. When it arrived, I processed it, stuck it on the shelf with the other new books and then mostly forgot about it.

Recently I started doing a weekly radio program. I'm constantly searching for new topics and this week I did technology. Fab was a natural, so I finally read it.

I found the book inspiring, entertaining, and exciting. The only downer, for me, was that his historical analysis was pretty shallow, but then I've studied a lot of history, especially the history of technology.

His approach to getting the fab technology out in the field so that people without much access to the latest stuff can fabricate things they need felt right on to me.

Oh yes, and he does explain how to fabricate larger stuff, using what he calls a "turtle." Apparently you can program a device to crawl around and mark out on a surface the shape you need, which can then be cut out using the appropriate tools.

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