Members of the MIT Media Lab can teach you how to create the devices on which so much of their work has depended.
It may not be the iPhone 5S or a new Samsung, but it works, you understand how, and you made it yourself. David Mellis, one of the creators of the Arduino platform, has released the blueprints for a DIY cellphone that is a “a difficult but potentially do-able project.” The project uses the widely available Arduino GSM shield, through which Arduino-based machines access the internet over cellular networks, and added support for a display, buttons, speakers, a microphone and a full interface to its hardware and software. The resulting phone can send and receive calls and text messages, store names and numbers, and tell the time. OSH Park will print three copies of the phone’s circuit board for around $60, but the rest of the project’s components bring its cost up to $200, highlighting the material costs involved in building such a device – no, it’s not all just markup these days.
Building the phone from the ground up means there’s room for infinite variations on the design. There are detailed instructions on the project website for creating a laser-cut plywood case that exposes the edge of the circuit board, but Mellis’s colleagues have taken liberties, creating cases that include 3D-printed buttons, an LCD instead of an LED screen (which is cheaper and can display more information, but is less durable). Check out some of their approaches below.
Though this project might be outside the time constraints and expertise of most consumers now, spreading the multilevel knowledge involved in constructing and programming your own electronic devices has become the mission of companies like Technology Will Save Us, which assembles the components into easily giftable sets. For the road warrior weary of having to replace a phone due to a single faulty component or questionable software, this may be the future calling.