This is the final text as submitted to Bre
Talking about the early beginnings of "Das Labor" makes me feel a bit strange, because right now, at the end of 2008, our hackerspace relocates to a new, larger place. Many people are working to make that happen, some of them were already there in Februrary 2005, when "Das Labor" was founded, others joined more recently. So in effect, this is like talking about ancient history at a time when new things emerge...
In January 2005 there was no coherent group actively working on building a hackerspace. Several small groups, some of them having monthly meetings in pubs in the area (e.g. the Linux User Group and a local offspring of the Chaos Computer Club) had loose interaction over various mailing lists. And there were highly motivated students from the newly founded faculty for IT-Security at the University Bochum. Suddenly, there was an opportunity to rent a part of a building, approx. 70 square meters, in sublease. Like an avalanche we tried to reach as many people as possible, very much in a hurry, because there was another applicant for the room - an alternative music store. Eventually, it was a coin flip which decided in favour of Labor and against the music store.
One point, which could also have turned into a major problem for us, in fact turned out to be a great strength: when we initially visited the potential hackerspace, most of us met for the very first time. But the place looked perfect for our purposes, it was an energizing meeting and we soon knew that we wanted to try it. So we had to rapidly distribute responsibility among people who hardly knew each other. Everybody was eagerly invited to participate -- "Go ahead, try it! If it works we'll do it that way" was the generally accepted approach. In only two sessions we managed to set up our tinkering place, agree on our current name and logo and legally register our club. We distributed access rights so quickly that we totally lost track about who is a key-owner to the place and who is not! Btw, the name "Raum 5" was, for various reasons, a high ranking candidate for quite some time.
Currently, we hold organisational meetings once a month on thursdays, where most strategic decisions are made. But in general most topics, organisational and technical ones, are discussed on our one and only mailinglist "firstname.lastname@example.org".
Since the early days we're doing a lot of projects in the area of embedded systems. A CAN bus is connecting gadgets distributed all over the place, used for light and plant automation and for fun. Blinken-stuff, in particular fully controllable 3-dimensional LED cubes called "Borgs" are made with the help of microcontrollers or FPGAs. Other topics of constant high interest are: cryptography, computer and network security in general, operating system design, retro-computing and even lockpicking. We are also a meeting and working place for various other independent groups, for example open source user groups. Workshops, Talks and other events are announced on the frontpage of our homepage. Actually, our place is open and frequented almost every day for tinkering or just keeping in touch and hanging around.
Main site: http://das-labor.org
Floor diagram & 3D view: http://www.das-labor.org/w/images/f/f3/Labor201.jpg http://www.das-labor.org/w/images/e/e4/Labormass.jpg