Chris Gammell's Analog Life

Analog electronics and everything else between 1 and 0

A bundle of glass on the seafloor

I’m writing from a plane to Australia, coming off a couple days of holiday in Queenstown, New Zealand. Something was tickling my brain that inspired me to start writing

By the end of my 5 days, I wasn’t exactly yawning at the mountains and beautiful scenery. But I also wasn’t snapping pictures of it non-stop like I did at the beginning of my trip. This is felt like the “hedonic treadmill“. Humans are very good at acclimating to the things in life, including the good things. I stopped to think about another way this acclimatization has impacted me:

The internet has impacted my life more than I ever give it credit for

We all pay it lip service when it’s brought up, but how often do you stop and think about it? Really, how often do you think about how much the internet has changed your life? Perhaps more than I do. But I know I’m used to it. I’m human, I’ve adapted. In fact, I’ve adapted so much I still get upset when I have less-than-stellar wifi (see Louis CK’s bit about wifi on planes). We adapt because it’s always there. The internet and constant connectivity has become such a big part of my life, it has become easy to ignore. So as I fly through the air in a magical metal tube writing on my supercomputer and listen to unlimited music over wifi…I thought I’d take the opportunity to pause and call out my opportunity.

First, let’s talk history: About 8 years ago, I joined a then-small site on the internet called reddit. I had been blogging for a couple years prior to that. A year and a half after joining reddit, I responded to a thread asking whether there are any electronics audio podcasts. There weren’t, so I made my attempt at doing a podcast by myself. It was…not great. But in doing so, a fellow nerd heard my attempt and suggested we try recording one together. After me and Dave recorded 3 episodes, Mike Harrison (from Mike’s Electric stuff) gave our show a name: The Amp Hour.

In the years since, Dave’s following on YouTube has risen to an astounding 400K+ subscribers. I was still working at industrial electronics companies in Cleveland while he started making a living out of it. I took a hint from this move and started my own venture nearly 4 years ago, starting to build an online course about electronics. That directly led to me quitting my engineering job to try my course full time. Shortly thereafter I ended up joining another company. That opportunity has since allowed me to travel the world and write about electronics and meet a wide range of electronics hobbyists and professionals.

All of this was made possible by a bundle of glass on the seafloor.

OK, yes it wasn’t just the intercontinental fiber optic internet lines. There are a lot of other things like laser diodes and networking equipment and the rest of the infrastructure of the internet. But regardless of how much stuff is involved, it really amazes me how much those data pipes have enabled in my life. It amplifies when I think about the events that have transpired as a result of my involvement with The Amp Hour.  Dave and I talk weekly (sometimes along with guests) and connect at near perfect audio quality and minimal lag. How would have we even come close to doing something like this years ago? Writing letters or emails back and forth, maybe? Or satellite links to somehow connect video broadcasts? Sending audio files via tape or wav files? A sometimes-working connection via ham radio when the ionospheric conditions were just right? The truth of the matter is, Dave and I would have never met and our lives would have taken different paths. I wouldn’t be a podcaster, I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have had. I would be living a different life. It’s crazy how much these small decisions have led to my current scenario.

I’ll be meeting Dave in person in a couple hours. I’m looking forward to it. I have been joking on the show that we might just get into a fistfight since we enjoy bickering about topics on-air. The truth is I really respect Dave and have been grateful to get to know him over these past 6.5 years. We give each other feedback on business decisions and discuss things happening in our lives. I’m sure it’ll be weird to see finally see each other in person, but I’ll shake his hand as an old friend.

The internet doesn’t just enable random connections (which this started as), but it enables people to find like-minded people. Even on this trip and the few meetups I have done so far, I hear the same things when I bring people interested in electronics: “I didn’t think there were others interested in the same stuff I am”.  I have always told people this is the best thing about events like “Bring-a-hack” after Maker Faire and the meetups I do in SF, LA and Chicago. Electronics people aren’t known for being particularly social, but it feels good when you find your peer group (or “tribe”). Feeling like we belong is an important part of being human and the internet allows us to find groups we connect with, even when the groups are super niche.

So three cheers to the internet and the shoulders of giants it was built upon! The bounty of the internet continues to bring nerds together from near and far (with more meetups being announced shortly). I look forward to connecting to many more people in the years to come.

Update:

6.5 years later…

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6 Comments

  1. Lovely, articulate, thoughtful reflection – Dave was excited to be meeting you at last too. Hope you enjoy your time here!

    Mrs EEV Blog

  2. Suzanne Deffree

    April 6, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Amazing journey, Chris. Keep going and let’s catch up soon.

  3. Kenny Trussell

    April 7, 2017 at 12:37 am

    I shed tears over the thought of you guys, who have been a huge part of my life for almost as many years as you have been podcasting, finally meeting! I never miss a podcast. Your post here is spot on in all respects. God bless!

  4. Great post! Yeah, the internet has changed the rules forever and I would like to thank you and Dave for doing “The Amp Hour”. When I met your podcast, it was as finding gold. You are a good team and I’m sure after your visit to Australia, a new project will rise from the creators of “The Amp Hour”

    Have a great time there, Chris and give Dave a big hug.

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