About The Joy Of Being Able To Tinker And Break Physical And Virtual Stuff Without Remorse

Ever since I can remember I loved to explore all things around electronics and computing, to find out how things work and to find out what's possible with stuff. When I was a teenager, however, this meant that every now and then I pushed the limits just a bit too far. When one day a little soldering experiment broke my computer I was out of business for a couple of weeks as one couldn't just get a replacement around the corner or go online and order something on Amazon. No, in those days it meant sending the equipment back to the manufacturer and to wait anxiously for a couple of weeks for the repaired computer to come back with a nice little bill attached that more than just strained the budget of a teenager. It was a defining lesson and I got a lot more cautious after that. Later, when I went to university, the story continued. I would have loved to play around with Linux but computers were expensive and I was dependent on my computer to work. So I didn't venture out to experiment as I would have liked but treated my computer as sacrosanct.

Incredible how the world has changed since then. Experimenting with electronics and computers has become so much easier and the worst thing that can happen today when tinkering with devices like Arduinos and Raspberry Pis is to fry a 20-30 Euro device. Wi-Fi or other wireless technologies can keep a computer physically separate so even if the hardware fries the effect can't jump to that expensive notebook. And even notebooks are not that expensive anymore and I have an older spare at home that I regularly use to try out things with first before I apply them on my main machine or to one of my servers that I run at home. Actually it was a second generation eeePC that opened the world of Linux to me on which I could try out things I would have never dared to do on my main PC. Today, all my personal machines run Linux that let's me experiment freely and openly without any limitations. Microsoft stuff that limits me to a single device is all gone.

And most of the time these days it's not even necessary anymore to use a physical device for experimenting. Instead I can just try new things in a virtual machine. After all, if the installation in the physical machine is broken one can just go back to the last restore point and things are running again in a few seconds. The degrees of freedom all of these things offer today compared to what was possible 20 years ago is just staggering. Not that I regret having lived through those times but sometimes I wonder what would be different today if I had all these possibilities already then!?

Anyway, I still catch myself every now and then being too cautious as sometimes the thought crosses my mind that things could break if I tried this or that before I remind myself that I can just press the reset button to start things over. How liberating!