Interview with Mikey Sklar @ EEWeb. One of our favorite people gets some nice digital ink…
How did you get into electronics / engineering and when did you start?
When I was a kid my school sent me to a NeuralLinguistic Programming center. They said I had some sort of learning disability. The NLP folks suggested to my mom that I get a computer and play games with it. Mom bought me an Apple II clone and we both tried to figure out how to use it. At 16 years old I decided to finish High School at a community college which freed up many hours that I used to get to know the computer. By the time I was twenty I worked for three fortune 100 companies (AT&T, Morgan Stanley and Hughes Aerospace) as a UNIX admin managing 3 of the top 100 supercomputers in the world. Mom became a computer teacher.
Years of debugging hardware issues on the big iron helped me to realize that my interest was in the small parts that made up these systems. Without an EE background I started out by reading the usual EE literature, Forest M. Mims III and Horowitz and Hill. At 25 I began programming microcontrollers.
Around the same time a friend suggested that I make illuminated clothing to prepare for my first year attending the desert art festival called Burning Man. In the festivals temporary city called Black Rock it is customary to wear illumination, many wear glow sticks or self made electronics, in order to avoid being run over by a rogue bicycle rider or art car. I took his advice and started connecting up LEDs and EL-Wire and adhering them to my clothing. The same friend scoffed at what I made and suggested that I sequence the lights with a microcontroller. Thinking that this was a fine idea I I took his suggestion and found myself in a 10 year long infatuation with hardware development and the proud owner of a closet full of illuminated garments.
What direction do you see your business heading in the next few years?
I’m following the Adafruit model. I setup a Zen Cart based an on-line store. I sell my projects in two forms, as kits and pre assembled. I plan to produce 2 to 4 new electronics kits each year and I hope to limit the amount of consulting that I need to do as a result.