Hackers in Huntsville

Makers Local 256 Sign

There are many definitions to the term “hacker” these days. So many that it is wise to question the intended meaning before joining a conversation, or a group purporting to be comprised of “hackers”.

Just a few definitions of “hacker” from Dictionary.com:

  1. A person or thing that hacks
  2. Slang: a person who engages in an activity without talent or skill: weekend hackers on the golf course
  3. Computer slang:
    • A computer enthusiast
    • A microcomputer user who attempts to gain unauthorized access to proprietary computer systems

I think the term “hacker” needs representation!

Makers Local 256 definition of “hackers”?

I’m thinking Huntsville’s own hacker space’s definition relates to that of Hacker.org: “The hacker explores the intersection of art and science in an insatiable quest to understand and shape the world around him.”

From the Makers Local 256 website:

“Makers Local 256 is a group of like-minded individuals who have created a hacker space located in Huntsville, AL. We are a nonprofit organization helping to join experienced and inexperienced tinkerers in an educational setting to design and work on projects in all hobbyist/DIY fields, particularly where projects overlap multiple fields.”

Our Makers Local 256 visit:

An energetic group of young people gave us a warm and welcoming tour of the facility; each sharing a bit about their individual projects and interests. The shop is a bit of a hodgepodge, with a whip antennae balanced on a crystal growing kit, next to a drill press, on a table next to a pinball machine in the first stages of renovation. The whole place is like that: 2,400 square feet of tinker heaven. I volunteered to help organize some of the piece parts forming a mountain between the shelves of one room but I almost wonder at the loss of atmosphere that will cause.

Wayne at Makers Local 256 with Mannequin

The projects I saw going on were as varied as the inventory:

  • Alice replaced the starter in her car and then started researching a new knitting project. Her parents raise Angora goats and she is well versed in carding and spinning her own yarn to create her own designs in decorations and clothing.
  • Wayne made a mannequin for one of his future projects from plastic wrap, duct tape, foam popcorn and pvc pipe. Took him about 20 minutes from start to finish.
  • Tim was hiding behind a laptop, working out the kinks in a multiple hacker space internet stream grid. There were several sites getting together to share projects using the internet, so that they would be able to see and hear each other from locations around the world.
  • David was working on his research into the evolution of hacker spaces. David is a founding member of the Makers Local 256 and enjoys discussing the social factors and implications behind what he sees as the growing phenomenon of hacker spaces.

My ancient self has enjoyed hanging out in the creative and collaborative tangles of garages all my life: my dad’s collaborations on race car building and machine designing, a boyfriend’s electronics experimentations and my ex’s musician jam sessions, to name a just few. What is new to me is the internet’s role in linking together these hubs of community innovation. It’s Dad’s garage on steroids.

Did we fit in?

It certainly felt like it to me. I even took a couple of membership applications to fill out. The energy was contagious. It makes me believe I could finish that mosaic project I have been meaning to do, maybe learn how to use a welder and try my hand at sculpture. Everything feels more possible in a supportive environment and they didn’t seem bothered by my age, so I’m not either.

Where can I learn more about Makers Local 256?

Their website, or stop by 203 Brown Street, right off South Parkway and just north of Clinton in Huntsville. They do not have “public hours.” However, if a full member is present, anyone is welcome to stop by hang out to see if Makers Local might be a good place to pursue their inner hacker.

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Posted under: Things to Do
Dated: Jan 19 2010


  1. Nathan says:

    Thank you so much for the kind words. I just wanted to let your readers know they are welcome to stop by anytime the shop is open. Check out the cam link at the top of our page, if the lights are on, somebody is home!


    Joani Reply:

    Awesome! Thanks for stopping by to put out the welcome mat :)


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