Laptop Shrimping

A Morecambe flavour of Open Source Hackery

Laptop Pimping Shrimping

Anatomical diagram of a shrimp

Over the coming months, we hope to collect old laptops which locals have given up on, and then through fortnightly workshops, we'll teach kids, adults, and anyone else who shows up how to bring them back from the dead, assess what they're still capable of, and then juice them to the max.

This isn't just pimping laptops. We are Morecambe. This is SHRIMPING laptops!

Kids and adults who take on a project laptop, should then be able to take their special buddy home, having learned about free software, microcontroller or interactive media programming and having the confidence to conceive and make their own electronics to extend this hobby project even further.

Here's just a few of the kind of things we'll be doing to shrimp our laptops, and what people might learn...

Driving full-color LED displays How to use numbers to control colors, the Python and Arduino languages
Using PWM servos to control fun things, like fake eyebrows on our laptops Timing and protocols to communicate between devices
Build a democratic jukebox for the workshop Installing and programming an Ampache server, collaborative systems, databases, media codecs

Technology Empowerment and Upcycling

A Gela Laptop Skin : Motherboard

Old laptops have their problems, they tend to be slow, low memory, have duff batteries and so on. But they have advantages too. Nobody cares about them. That means you can hack them, paint them and chop them up to your heart's content.

Having been convinced by the logic of the Raspberry PI I realised this is an ideal opportunity for kids and adults to experiment with software and behaviours without fear of breaking their work laptop or home computer. What's more, this experimentation can give these devices personal meaning which goes way beyond their mere scrap value.

This is the special magic of 'upcycling'. It's rooted in the value of something which you've spent hours tuning to be just right for you, with a keyboard which glitters just the way you like it, and a huge inflatable sign, powered by a microcontroller fan motor to tell you when you should get up from the computer to go for a walk. You can't buy these things in the shops! Take a look at all the things which Instructables authors are doing with laptops for inspiration.

Along the way, we'll be teaching people to empower themselves, build their own electronics and software to create just the crazy laptop experience they want. A bit of math, logic and self-discipline creeps in along the way, just because that's what it takes to get where you want to be. If that has educational benefits or inspires people to start a career, then all the better.

Part of FutureMenders

A laptop with keyboard smashed in

As a resident of Morecambe and friend of Jonnet Middleton, I was asked how I could contribute to a "Mending Shop" to be homed in an empty shop in the West End. Seeing what the mendrs were up to, darning and patching, I wondered what good I could be, with no experience in textiles or dressmaking.

Then the facepalm.

I spend half my time messing around with old laptops, tablets, microcontroller boards and network devices, figuring out how to hack and repurpose them with open source software and hardware. Why not go tech with the mending?

Update: Looks like we may be getting access to a shop sooner than we thought, thanks to the Barn at West End Impact

Shout out to Freecyclers

Freecycle Logo

We'd love to hear from you if you have old laptops which are broken, or just too old for your tastes. We can use pretty well anything which has a USB port, though something with Ethernet and >512Meg memory is ideal. These will be used in all kinds of crazy ways to benefit Morecambe technology learners. If you want to bring your own laptop along to the workshops to pimp, then more power to you.

We need to get a few laptops in stock before we can start workshopping. To stay informed when workshops are happening, please contact me at and I can add your email to the mailing list.