Announcing BioCoder

An O'Reilly newsletter covering the biology revolution and connecting the many people working in DIY bio.

We’re pleased to announce BioCoder, a newsletter on the rapidly expanding field of biology. We’re focusing on DIY bio and synthetic biology, but we’re open to anything that’s interesting.

Why biology? Why now? Biology is currently going through a revolution as radical as the personal computer revolution. Up until the mid-70s, computing was dominated by large, extremely expensive machines that were installed in special rooms and operated by people wearing white lab coats. Programming was the domain of professionals. That changed radically with the advent of microprocessors, the homebrew computer club, and the first generation of personal computers. I put the beginning of the shift in 1975, when a friend of mine built a computer in his dorm room. But whenever it started, the phase transition was thorough and radical. We’ve built a new economy around computing: we’ve seen several startups become gigantic enterprises, and we’ve seen several giants collapse because they couldn’t compete with the more nimble startups.

We’re seeing the same patterns in biology today. You can build homebrew lab equipment for a fraction of the price of commercial equipment; we’re seeing amateurs do meaningful research and experimentation; and we’re seeing new tools that radically drop the cost of experimentation. We’re also seeing new startups that have the potential for changing the economy as radically as the advent of inexpensive computing.

BioCoder is the newsletter of the biology revolution. Its goal is to connect the many people working in DIY bio, from postdocs who feel limited by the constraints of professional funding to high school students just starting to explore. We’ll be doing virtual tours of DIY labs and biology hackerspaces, bring you up to date on important projects such as the 3D BioPrinter and the Glowing Plant, and give you ideas for new experiments and useful tools. We’d like it to be a forum where you can ask questions, ranging from “is anyone working on this?” to “how do I build a gene gun?”

We don’t know when the biology revolution will come to fruition, any more than the hackers of the mid-70s could envision the web, Google, or the iPhone. But we know that something big is happening, and we want to be a part of it. We believe that you’ll want to be a part of it, too. That’s why we’re publishing BioCoder.

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