Make Believers

Geeks, freaks and entrepreneurs collide at Maker Faire, an innovation bazaar held twice a year. Meet some of this year's Makers.

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Bopping along to the Thingamagoop
Will Guy

John-Michael Reed, a.k.a. "Dr. Bleep"
Synthesizer builder

John-Michael Reed, a.k.a. Dr. Bleep, is in the Thingamagoop business. That's what Reed, 27, calls the tiny analog synthesizers he created with designer Will Guy, 38. (Analog synthesizers use non-digital circuits, like electric guitars, and enjoyed their heyday in the 1970s with brands such as Moog.) A Thingamagoop's bleeps and squawks are modulated by knobs, switches and light levels. Each box has an eye stalk with an LED lamp attached; the closer the lamp is to the photosensors on the box, the higher the pitch of the Thingamagoop.

These odd little devices are sold for $120, often through boutique stores in the U.S., Canada, Japan and Europe. Bleep Labs does no marketing. The boutiques simply found him online. So far, Bleep Labs has produced about 2,000 Thingamagoops. The parts cost about $30, and it takes Reed and a couple of friends an hour and a half to assemble each one.

"It's still on a garage scale," Reed says. "The challenge is making the leap to a wider audience without getting rid of the homemade aspect that made the Thingamagoop cool in the first place." For now, at least, the pair are making some noise.

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