Older readers will perhaps recall the once popular Sunday evening TV programme Scrapheap Challenge, in which oily, boilersuited blokes competed to build machines out of materials scavenged from a scrapheap.
Even older readers will recall The Great Egg Race, presented by Professor Heinz Wolff, in which bejumpered and bewhiskered engineers competed to build machines from materials scavenged from a BBC studio.
These days, engineers and inventors call themselves makers, live and work on YouTube, are covered in tattoos and piercings, and the best of them are women.
Laura Kampf posts videos about once a week. She makes bicycle sidecars and the sort of quirky furniture that probably seemed like a good idea at the time and goes down well in Cologne. If you want to know how to make an uncomfortable-looking chair, or a skateboard cargo rack for your bike, she’s your woman. She is seriously German.
Darbin Orvar makes ‘vintage style’ keepsake boxes, floating shelves and minimalist shoe boxes. She’s Swedish and very tidy. And she’s not really called Darbin — she’s called Linn.
Among the men, the best of the makers is probably Adam Savage, a special-effects designer, model maker and animator, who works on movies and presents TV shows but whose natural habitat is undoubtedly the hyper-enthusiastic straight-to-camera ‘Hi, guys!’ mode of his YouTube channel.
But the very best of all the YouTube makers is Simone Giertz, who calls herself ‘the queen of shitty robots’. If Wallace of Wallace and Gromit were a 27-year-old Swedish robotics enthusiast, he’d be Giertz. She makes robot hair-drying machines, bottom-wiping machines, nose-blowing machines — Heath Robinson-type stuff. Plus, she’s hilarious. And she likes to swear. Her video ‘Why My Sponsors Are Leaving’ is a lesson in improvisation, comic timing, yah boo sucks, and chutzpah. Alas, she has a brain tumour — I read about it in the Daily Mail. The lesson of Giertz’s channel is that old Great Egg Race truth that if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. In the end, failure succeeds.