Mitch Altman may be best known for inventing a one-button universal remote control called TV-B-Gone, used for turning off TVs in public places. But he’s also the co-founder of Noisebridge, a hacker-space in San Francisco. He joins us as part of our “First Person” series featuring the leaders, innovators and other compelling characters who make the Bay Area unique.

KQED’s QUEST takes a tour of Noisebridge with Mitch Altman:

First Person: Mitch Altman 11 November,2011forum

Mitch Altman, CEO of Cornfield Electronics and co-founder of Noisebridge hacker-space in San Francisco, a collaboratively run place providing tools and community support for a variety of creative projects

  • Kt

    I love noisebridge! I go there every once in a while for SCOW on wednesdays… “Sewing, Crafts Or Whatever” It’s always a great group of people willing to learn, and share, and create with each other. Such a cool space to have in the city!

  • Herb Melvoin

    Dear Mitch, We went to school together for years and you were always a bright innovative type guy! Have you ever got involved with Holography? Keep up the great work, from Las Vegas Herb Melvoin.

    • Hey Herb — thanks for reminding me!  I’ve always been super intrigued by holography, but never made the time to play with my own.


  • Elizabeth

    I’m offended by Ms. Myrow’s assumption that computer hackers are “skinny guys” and that people who would be soldering are men and people interested in sewing are women. This is one of the biggest problems with attracting women and girls to STEM areas — when people make such assumptions, it reinforces stereotypes! There are lots of women computer scientists and hackers and lots of men who sew!

    • I don’t think she ment to imply that only boys solder and only girls sew.  It was a way to talk about how we are all capable of doing all of these things — all it takes is interest, and it is even better with a supportive community of people to help one another (such as a hackerspace).  At Noisebridge the population is about 40% female, 60% male, and a few percent of genders of peoples’ own choosing — and lots of people of all genders are sewing and soldering and cooking and doing science, photography, music, video, robotics, and so many other cool things that people make happen at Noisebridge.


  • Herb Melvoin

    Soldering is an art. A cold solder can ruin a circuit board. Your right Mitch I used to work for the Govt @ Intel Corp. You have to do it right or your project will not work. Solder 101 is a very good class!

    • I have now taught (I’m estimating) about 32,500 people to solder of all ages (well, age 3.5 to 83) in the last 3 years (with the help of leagues of wonderful volunteers).  I created a very easy-to-understand comic book to teach soldering.  It is free to download:
      (This is part of a book I’m writing about How To Make Cool Things With Microcontrollers (For People Who Know Nothing) )


  • I love noisebridge — Its community of nerds and experts inspire me to learn and do more. Rather than traditional “education” where people are despoited with traditional already known knowledge, Noisebridge inspires people how to actually /do/ things!
    I wish our educational system could be as inspirational and entertaining as Noisebridge’s open environment.

  • Adam in Berkeley

    Does your brand of hacking only apply to software and hardware? What about wetware? What are the possibilities of “body-hacking”?

  • Herb Melvoin

    Where do you find the funding?

    • Noisebridge is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so donations are tax-deductible.  About 40% of our funding comes from donations (and almost 100% of our equipment).  The other 60% comes from membership dues.

      But please know that everyone is welcome at Noisebridge for free (even if you are not a member) — as long as you follow our one and only one rule:  Be excellent to each other.


  • Adam in Berkeley

    Do you view noisebridge and other similar hackerspaces as spiritual predecessors the hacking of Steve Jobs? Did Mr. Jobs influence your idea of hacking at all?

  • Adam in Berkeley

    Do the products of hacking always have to have a specific function? Is there any virtue or value to machines and/or software that don’t serve a specific purpose?

    • If you are creating more joy and fulfillment in your life (as you see it), then that may be enough of a purpose in and of itself.  And if it adds more joy and fulfillment to others (as they see it), then you are making the world a way better place.  That’s a great purpose in my book.  🙂


  • Heck no! The objective of hacking is to “see if it works” — Imagine a musical “jam session” in electronics. Sometimes you can make something beautiful but it’s certainly not the objective.

  • Sklein65

    What about  blocking out cell phone signals.  Especially in schools!  Movie theaters.

  • Noisebridge is 501(c)(3) — It accepts donations, as well as member fees (nobody is required to be a member, there is practically no benefit either) as well as other charitable contributions.

  • Rob Koberg is not responding

    • I think our servers were a bit overloaded after the show.  All is up and running fine.


  • Chris in Oakland

    Do you feel like corporations like Apple are Trashing our Rights! by making their hardware less open and hard for amateurs to work with?

  • Stacy

    Mitch Altman – I love you. I’ll be checking out Noisebridge. Thank you!!

  • Herb Melvoin

    I really enjoyed this show and thank you. I will listen more often online from Las Vegas!

  • Bjj

    Mitch: Can you tell me if there is a Noisebridge type place in Sonoma County?  Thank you!

    • Bjj: I am not aware of a hackerspace in Sonoma.  You can check on, where there is a list of all hackerspaces.  I do know that Tyler, one of the people who works for O’Reilly (who publishes MAKE Magazine) has been wanting to start a hackerspace in Sebastopol.  Why don’t you get together?   This is how hackerspaces happen.  And please feel free to join the email list, where there are people from hackerspaces around the world helping one another.


      • wow — that email address got mangled — here it is again:
        tyler *at* oreilly *dot* com

  • I want to encourage people in the East Bay, especially in Oakland and Berkeley, to check out your local hackerspace, Ace Monster Toys (

    • As I mentioned on the show today, Ace Monster Toys is a great place, full of great people!  Please feel welcome to check it out.


      • And for people in the Peninsula, there’s Hacker Dojo, another great hackerspace!


      • Yeah, I heard the shoutout, Mitch, and appreciated it. I mentioned to others (and on Twitter). I’m happy to see hackerspaces getting attention on NPR.

  • mjf

    I loved listening to Mitch Altman this morning while in the car.  I’ve often thought of turning up KQED loud enough to annoy the boom boxes in neighboring vehicles but concluded I would just cause my own deafness and they’d never even notice.  I’m can’t wait for his boom-be-gone! 

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