Adafruit's Limor Fried takes on the Engadget Questionnaire

Every week, a new and interesting human being tackles our decidedly geeky take on the Proustian Q&A. This is the Engadget Questionnaire.

In the inaugural appearance of our questionnaire on Engadget, Adafruit founder Limor Fried opens up about her love for her Metcal MX-500 soldering station and the joys of open-source build projects. Follow us after the break for more from Limor.

Adafruit's Limor Fried takes on the Engadget QuestionnaireWhat gadget do you depend on most?
I would say the gadget I depend on the most is my Metcal MX-500 soldering station. If you're doing SMT (surface-mount technology), having the right tools will save you tons of time, frustration and money.

Which do you look back upon most fondly?
I really liked my Atari 2600; being able to play arcade-type games when I was a kid was the best thing ever.

Which company does the most to push the industry?
From a hardware, software, engineering and manufacturing standpoint, for me, it's Apple. Apple has completely pushed everyone in directions some love and others loathe. Cherish them or hate them; they're impossible to ignore and everyone doing hardware will be compared to Apple for quite a while.

What is your operating system of choice?
Up until recently I was using XP, but it's harder to have newer hardware work that well on XP, so I'm on Windows 7 for now. I wouldn't say it's by choice; it's just a tool I need to use to get my work done. At Adafruit we have released our own operating system for the Raspberry Pi; every free moment I get, I work on updates to it for the next release.

What are your favorite gadget names?
Raspberry Pi, Arduino, FLORA, MintyBoost


"I built an extender arm to get balloons from the ceiling when I was 10 years old; after that I knew I wanted to build things."

Which app do you depend on most?
For desktop computer, I depend on CadSoft EAGLE. It's my tool of choice for designing the electronics I create at Adafruit Industries. EAGLE is a PCB (printed circuit board) design software that a lot of engineers use to make the circuit boards you see inside many electronic products. I do open-source hardware and release my designs under a Creative Common ShareAlike, Attribution license so others can improve upon them and learn from the designs. You can check them out on GitHub.

While I don't have a phone, I do have an iPad; my favorite app is Circuit Playground. It's the best engineering calculator app and we made it at Adafruit.

What traits do you most deplore in a smartphone?
I don't have a cell phone or smartphone; I spent a lot of time designing the WaveBubble (a cell phone jammer) so it would be an odd thing for me to have a phone, I think.

What is your idea of the perfect device?
The perfect device is the one you build, you make, you can improve upon and share what you've done. The perfect device has source files, firmware, code, design files, bill of materials and all under a good open-source license.

What is your earliest gadget memory?
I built an extender arm to get balloons from the ceiling when I was 10 years old; after that I knew I wanted to build things.

"... We have not even begun to see how powerful and amazing everyone being connected and sharing will be."


What technological advancement do you most admire?
The internet; we have not even begun to see how powerful and amazing everyone being connected and sharing will be.

What fault are you most tolerant of in a gadget?
I understand the tradeoffs and challenges of battery life. We're still using basically the same tech for batteries for quite some time; they need space and get warm and things don't always go right with power management.

What device do you covet most?
I'm currently researching a new Pick-and-Place machine; these are giant machines with moving heads and high-res microscopic cameras that pick up small parts and put them on circuit boards. They cost hundreds of thousands of dollars; for my company Adafruit to meet demand, we need to get a bigger version of the one we have now. I can't wait :)

What does being connected mean to you?
Being connected means being able to share the best things with each other; it's a challenging world out there, but being connected means we can give each other something in some way to support one another.

When did you last disconnect?
I try to tune out each day for at least a few hours to read a book; it's really tempting to have a short attention span with everything shiny out there and calling you to do something. I've found I can do my best work when I make a habit of being offline as much as possible each day; that usually means one to two hours plus sleep :)

Photograph by Rayon Richards

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Adafruit's Limor Fried takes on the Engadget Questionnaire