Mitch Altman

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Mitch Altman
Mitch Altman (2017).jpg
Mitch Altman (2017)
Born (1956-12-22) December 22, 1956 (age 66)
Alma materUniversity of Illinois

Mitch Altman (born December 22, 1956) is a Berlin-based hacker and inventor, best known for inventing TV-B-Gone, as featured speaker at hacker conferences, as international expert on the hackerspace movement, and for teaching introductory electronics workshops. He is also Chief Scientist and CEO of Cornfield Electronics.

Early life and education[edit]

Altman grew up in Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois. After kindergarten his family moved to Highland Park, Illinois. Altman graduated from Deerfield High School (Illinois) in 1975. Altman is an alumnus of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where he earned an undergraduate degree (1980) and a master's degree (1984) in electrical engineering. While at the University of Illinois, Altman co-organized the first Hash Wednesday in Champaign-Urbana in 1977.[1][2] Altman moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1986 to work in Silicon Valley.

VPL Research, 3ware, Cornfield Electronics, Maker Faire[edit]

Altman was an early developer of Virtual Reality technologies, working at VPL Research with Jaron Lanier.[3] In addition to Lanier, Altman worked alongside about 15 other individuals.[4] Altman left VPL Research in protest when it accepted contracts with the United States Department of Defense.[5]

Altman co-founded Silicon Valley start-up 3ware in February 1997 with J. Peter Herz and Jim MacDonald (who is on the advisory board of Cornfield Electronics).[6]

Altman started Cornfield Electronics as a consulting company. After the launch of TV-B-Gone Altman gave the company the tagline "We make Useful Electronics for a Better World".[7]

Following extensive involvement in the "Maker" movement and Make magazine, including being featured in a Make magazine April Fool's Day prank,[8] Altman publicly parted ways with the Maker Faire in 2012 after the Maker Faire accepted contracts with the United States Department of Defense.[9]


In 2004 Altman released a one-button universal remote control called TV-B-Gone, to be used for turning off TVs in public places.[6][10] Altman used money from the sale of 3ware to pay for the manufacture of the first 20,000 units of TV-B-Gone.[11] By February 2014, he was reported to have sold more than 500,000 units.[12] He is currently selling the TV-B-Gone generation 4. He also invented a new product called the TV-B-Gone SHP (Super High Power).

Other activities[edit]

Altman at a workshop at HackerspaceSG in Singapore

Mitch Altman is an important figure in the international "hackerspace" and "maker" movements. While attending the 2007 Berlin Chaos Communication Camp, Altman and Jacob Appelbaum began discussing the idea of a San Francisco hackerspace, at which time there were no hackerspaces in the United States.[13] In October 2008 he co-founded Noisebridge,[14][15] which was probably the third hackerspace formed in the US.[16] Since then, Altman has traveled extensively, encouraging the formation of hackerspaces, holding panels and workshops on depression,[17][18] teaching introductory electronics workshops to people of all ages and visiting electronics enthusiast groups around the world.[19][20] TedX Brussels invited Altman to give a Ted Talk the Hackerspace movement,[21] Make magazine has referred to Altman as "the Johnny Appleseed of hackerspaces",[22] and Altman, who has also written for the magazine, was awarded the first "Maker Hero" award—named in his honor—by Make Magazine on May 20, 2011.[23][24]

In September 2018, Altman announced that he had left Noisebridge.[25]


  1. ^ Chicago Tribune, April 18th, 1985, "Hazy Tradition Aims High, Man", Kevin Davis
  2. ^ Whatever Happened to Hash Wednesday, News Gazette, January 26th, 2014
  3. ^ PBS.ORG, Digging Deeper: TV-B-Gone device shuts down public tvs
  4. ^ "Flashback: An Interview with Mitch Altman (A Virtual Reality Pioneer from the late 1980's)". 5 February 2015.
  5. ^ YouTube, Nov 17, 2019, Mitch Altman - The Pros and Cons of Tech. Can We Design Tech that Serves Humanity?
  6. ^ a b Rubinstein, Dan (2005) "Mitch Altman", Out, December 2005, p. 157. Retrieved November 20, 2013
  7. ^ Cornfield About US
  8. ^ April 1, 2011, Make Magazine Blog
  9. ^ "The Pentagon competes for Hacker Hearts and Minds", Sabine Blanc, April 10th, 2012,
  10. ^ Wheat, Dale (2011) Arduino Internals, Apress Academic, ISBN 978-1430238829, pp. 183-4
  11. ^ Wired Magazine, October 19th, 2004, "Inventor Rejoices as TVs go dark"
  12. ^ "Inventor hacks student mindsets on campus", Claire Hettinger, Daily Illini, February 12th 2014
  13. ^ Make Magazine, May 22nd, 2013, "The Difference between Hackerspaces, Makerspaces, Techshops and Fablabs, Fourth Paragraph
  14. ^ Minutes from the founding meeting of Noisebridge
  15. ^ "DIY Freaks Flock to ‘Hacker Spaces’ Worldwide", by Dylan Tweney, Wired Magazine, March 2009
  16. ^ Baichtal, John (2011) Hack This: 24 Incredible Hackerspace Projects from the DIY Movement, QUE, ISBN 978-0789748973, p. 54
  17. ^ "Mitch Altman: The Hacker Lifestyle",, May 2012
  18. ^ "Inventor Hacks student mindsets on Campus, Claire Hettinger, Daily Illini, February 12th, 2014
  19. ^ UIUC Program of Allen Hall Artist in Residence, inter alia
  20. ^ News-Gazette, January 31st, 2014, "U of I Grad raturns to encourage Hackerspaces"
  21. ^ Mitch Altman at TEDxBrussels
  22. ^ Zine, 10 Best Hackerspace posts, December 28, 2011
  23. ^ Make Magazine, description of the "Makey" awards
  24. ^ Make Magazine, Author profiles
  25. ^ Mitch Altman: I quietly left Noisebridge in May. I am no longer part of Noisebridge.

External links[edit]