Lightbulbs hanging from a string representing hackerspace.What is a hackerspace?

A hackerspace, also known as a hacklab, incubator, or hackspace, is a flexible workspace designed for people who share common interests, typically technology-related interests. It’s a physical, set venue in the community where programmers, coders, developers, or anyone with like interests can meet, work, share skills, and engage in creative problem solving.

While the word “hack” has negative connotations, in this instance it is associated with inventing, innovating, and experimenting. The majority of hackerspaces are not-for-profit organizations.

A hackerspace is used to work cooperatively on a product or technology. Members of the hackerspace, each bringing their own unique skill set, collaborate and work together to develop the product or technology. For example, a hackerspace dedicated to developing 3D printers may include experts in printing, electronics, computer programming, and 3D development.

The rise of hackerspaces

The hackerspace movement started in the 1990s in Germany. C-base, a non profit organization created to increase knowledge and skills relating to computer software, hardware, and data networks, became the first recognized hackerspace in the world. C-base was unpopular at first because of lack of funding. However, the idea eventually expanded, and today C-base is engaged in a number of hackerspace projects.

Soon after c-base started expanding, a group of North American hackers visited Germany for the Chaos Communication Camp, a camp that used the c-base hackerspace. These North American hackers brought back the idea to the United States and subsequently opened multiple hackerspaces in 2003.

In 2006, Paul Bohm created hackerspace.org, a wiki-based website that maintains a list of hackerspaces and lays out patterns on how to start and run a hackerspace. Today, over 2,400 hackerspaces are located across six continents.

hackerspace.org list

A notable hackerspace is the NASA Ames SpaceShop Rapid Prototyping Lab, the first hackerspace within the US federal government. The facility has trained thousands of federal employees on emerging rapid-prototyping equipment.

Read also: What is a Hacker? 

Makerspace vs. hackerspace

In many cases, the terms hackerspace and makerspace are used interchangeably. A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library, or separate public or private facility.

The main difference between a makerspace and a hackerspace is that a makerspace is often an entity within an organization, whereas a hackerspace is an organization within itself. In addition, makerspaces typically focus on creating tangible objects and members may be carpenters, metal workers, textile technicians, etc. Hackerspaces are more focused on technological innovations and have members such as web developers, coders, and programmers.

Abby Braden
Abby Braden is an award-winning writer and editor for websites such as TechnologyAdvice.com, Webopedia.com, and Project-Management.com, where she covers technology trends and enterprise and SMB project management platforms. When she’s not writing about technology, she enjoys giving too many treats to her dog and coaching part-time at her local gym.

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