The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronics Junk

The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronics Junk

The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronics Junk is a progressive lending library of electronic components. An internet meme in physical form halfway between P2P zip-archive sharing and a flea market. It arrives full of wonderful (and possibly useless) components, but you will surely find some treasures to keep. You will be inspired look through your own piles, such as they are, and find more mysterious components that clearly need to be donated to the box before it is passed on again.

Recipient Conditions for The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronics Junk:

  1. Take out and add as much electronics junk as you like (but keep it small enough to fit in a USPS flat-rate Priority Mail box).
  2. Write up, photograph, document or otherwise publish in some way online at least one thing you took out (suggested flickr tag: TGIMBOEJ).
  3. There is a little book in the box. Add a checkmark by your name to show that the box has been to you. Also propose a future recipient by adding their name and e-mail address to the book.
  4. Within two weeks pass the box along to one of the people whose name is in the book. Before mailing it to them, send them this list and make sure that they want to participate.

If you get the box, who you should send it to?

A proposed recipient should be someone you suspect of having a critical mass of (or at least sufficiently interesting) electronics junk, should have a non-zero online presence, and should be reliable enough that you think they actually will send it off again within two weeks. (Naturally, bonus points for open source oriented hardware hackers.)

Why would you want to get a box of junk in the mail?

As Mark Frauenfelder observed in Make: vol. 12, there is a certain importance to keeping a junk box for future projects. We heartily agree. Perhaps a component in the box– or the box itself– will inspire your next project. Or just maybe it will have that frobnicated interoceter you’ve been looking for forever. Or maybe you just want to join our fledgling junk-sharing movement because it’s fun.

Don’t sweat the details.

Can you say “no” if someone offers you the box? Yes. Can you send it to the person whose name you wrote down? Yes. Can you send it to someone who already has a checkmark by their name? Yes. If the box gets too full, can you split the contents in two and send them in two different directions? Yes (but don’t forget to add a new book to the new box).

So, what did we take from the box before readying it for its next trip? Here are a few of our favorites:

The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronics Junk   The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronics Junk

A piece of plastic fiber-optic cable.Some beautiful capacitors which will round out our wine charm set nicely.

The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronics Junk   The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronics Junk

A couple of nifty old-school right-angle DIP sockets.Three nicely made phillips flat-head machine screws with great heft.

(And what did we put into the box? Not to name names, but we did add a small pile of cool and most mysterious components to help the box along on its journey.)


A commenter asked “So this sounds cool, how does one participate?”

  1. When someone e-mails you and asks if you want to participate, say YES and send them your mailing address!
  2. Work towards meeting the guidelines for proposed recipients: save interesting electronics junk and make sure that you have some online presence.
  3. If necessary, suggest to people participating in the project that you might be a good candidate.
  4. Take that one step further: Set up a wiki and start a network of people interested in participating in the project. (List people’s web sites, not e-mail addresses!)
  5. Alone, or with some friends, start your own box and send it off. What goes around comes around!

PS: On the topic of setting up a wiki: We’ll offer to host it if we get five serious volunteer administrators who will set up and run the site. Want to be one?

Update 2:

This is not chain mail. You do not send it to “the next person on the list.” You send it to a worthyrecipient, as determined by your own judgement. The purpose of the lists is to help identify proposed recipients who might meet the recipient conditions and exchange interesting junk with the box.

(By the way– we still need a couple more volunteers for a potential wiki site.)

Update 3:

There are many boxes. And they have a plan.

Update 4:

We have a wiki now!

Update 5:

(7/2009) A year later, we’ve learned a lot and updated procedures. Please see updated guidelines here.

28 thoughts on “The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronics Junk

  1. I’m good at keeping a junk box for future projects. I just never seem to get around to the projects! I have several boxes of stuff I’ve had for years. Electronic components, motors, gears…I need to go through it all, throw away the real junk, and send the rest to somebody who can actually use it.

  2. Ooooh. I have more than enough interesting junk to start a box, and I know at several people who I’m sure would love to participate. I used to buy the Jameco "grab bags" all the time… my kids and I would make an afternoon of sorting and testing all the components and making stuff out of whatever we got. How does one start a new box? You mentioned a book and a wiki. What does the book look like? What’s in it other than the list of names to send it to next?

  3. If someone would like to add me to the book, I’d greatly appreciate it.

    My (non-zero) internet presence can be found here (AskEMB),here (PhischX), and here (Phisch Classic).

    After all the Wii, Laser, and other projects I’ve tackled, I’ve got plenty of fun bits of hardware lying around. I’d love to get them out there so someone else can have fun with them.

  4. Be nice to alter it a bit and have an online listing with a USB thumb drive journal following it, some nice scripting to have the USB stick sync with an online database, and give info for the next destination. complete with capabilities to load the program on a new key and split the box to two destinations.

    1. I too have a lot of components that I’m sure others would find useful, and I would gladly participate if invited! :-)

      scotth61 at cableone dot net

  5. Id love to try this out ive got some random circuit boards, RC supplies, and other stuff that i never use.

  6. What a terrific idea!
    I am teaching myself electronics, so I don’t have a lot of items to contribute. If someone was to send me a small box of random electronics, I could start off a brand new wandering box (hint, hint).

  7. Of course this could reduce the carbon cost of moving the box.
    If enough people are interested in the big cities, mystery boxes could be swapped in person.

    I still like the "mystery" idea. I feel that I would put better stuff into the box knowing that it will surprise someone.

  8. How do you find if your have been chose to be on of the admins for th wiki sight also where do you sign up

  9. I’m from Denmark (You know.. The country) And I would like to participate too, but I doubt anyone would wan’t to ship overseas.. So I was thinking of making some boxes for european people.. Anyone around?

  10. no offense but this just sounds like a mobile geocache, would it be possible to make a junk electronics geocache? more people could use it at once

    1. No offense, but that doesn’t sound like much of a substitute. If you want to set up an electronics box as a geocache, you’re welcome to do so, but that would be a very different project.

      As far as reaching "more people," I don’t know if I’ve ever even met someone who does geocaching, but I have met lots of people who use the internet.

      Windell H. Oskay

  11. AWESOME!!! Now someone should use the same idea with a "loanable RepRap". That way those who dont have all the parts of a RepRap can borrow one to make parts for their own RepRap, and then send it on after a certain amount of time.

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