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Avondale's TARDIS Calls Pumping Station: One Hacker Space Its Home

By Ariel Cheung | November 11, 2015 6:11am
 A life-size replica of the time-traveling TARDIS from popular British show
A life-size replica of the time-traveling TARDIS from popular British show "Doctor Who" perches on the roof of Pumping Station: One in Avondale.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

AVONDALE — For "Doctor Who" fans, the titular character's time machine is a beloved symbol, a friendly wave of greeting to fellow Whovians.

In Chicago, a life-size TARDIS has been perched atop Pumping Station: One for two years now, inviting those in the know to come say hello.

The spaceship replica (its name stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space) was originally built to serve as a portable photo booth for events, but after it mostly stubbed toes and gathered dust, the hackers decided it needed a new home.

"Everybody was so used to tripping over it, they wanted to put it out of their mind," said Ray Doeksen, a spokesman for Pumping Station: One.

Pumping Station: One, which has been operating out of 3519 N. Elston Ave. for two years, is a collective space for programmers and engineers. Some call them makers, but Doeksen said in true spirit, they're hackers. Less Anonymous, more Ikea Hacks.

The almost 400 members often work independently, although sometimes they collaborate on projects like creating a metallic paint that can conduct electricity. Others do woodworking or 3-D printing, or a combination of skills. Really, anything goes.

"People hack on things more in the sense of playing with a hacky sack — playing around with things and recombining them and deconstructing them," Doeksen said.

 The front door of Pumping Station: One.
The front door of Pumping Station: One.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

A full membership with voting rights and storage space costs $70 per month, but "starving hackers" can pay $40 without the perks.

The group formed in 2009, when the earliest members needed sufficient space to tinker, share resources and brainstorm. Doeksen credits "the explosion in hacker spaces" to the rise of the 3-D printer, which gives hackers the freedom to create almost anything in a fraction of the time.

The key difference between "making" and "hacking" lies in the "do-ocracy" nature of hacking, Doeksen said. Better to cannibalize a previous project or jump into fixing a problem or "frequently fail" than hesitate, he said.

For those interested in hacking, Pumping Station: One hosts open houses at 8 p.m. Tuesdays.

DNAinfo was unable to confirm whether the TARDIS was bigger on the inside.

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