The gadgets that refuse to die

Or is it? Turns out, it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, if they garner enough of a fanbase, it’s possible for so-called obsolete gadgets to get a second lease on life. Sometimes, thanks to the combination of open-source software and a passionate community, beloved gadgets can live on for years after they’ve supposedly run their…

The gadgets that refuse to die

Or is it? Turns out, it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, if they garner enough of a fanbase, it’s possible for so-called obsolete gadgets to get a second lease on life. Sometimes, thanks to the combination of open-source software and a passionate community, beloved gadgets can live on for years after they’ve supposedly run their course.Rebble: Pebble’s returnOne of the best examples of that is the Pebble. Having raised over $10 million on Kickstarter, the smartwatch effectively put the crowdfunding site on the map (it remained the most funded project on Kickstarter for years). And that was just the original; subsequent iterations like the Pebble Time and the Pebble 2 would also break Kickstarter records. The latter raised over $12 million while the former raised a whopping $20 million, and is still the number one most funded project on Kickstarter to this day. Despite the arrival of the Apple Watch and Android Wear, it’s clear that Pebble had a devout following.David Groom, known online as “ishotjr,” was one of them. He was an early backer, and eventually acquired every single Pebble device that he could get his hands on. When the company announced that third-party developers could create smart straps for the Pebble Time, he was especially excited. “I was like, no way,” Groom, a self-described hardware hacker, told Engadget. “I could interface my Pebble with an Arduino and stuff! I was freaking out.” He was so excited about it that he traveled all the way from his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan to a hackathon in Boulder, Colorado. The long trip was worth it, however, because he wound up winning the contest. “That was the turning point. I met all the Pebble people, and everyone was so awesome. I was deep in it.”Groom ended up throwing himself into the Pebble community. He helped organize local events, curated the app store, and even co-authored a book on Pebble development. “I was doing the maximum amount of Pebble stuff I could,” he said. He would also spend a lot of time in Pebble-related Slack and Discord channels. “We have this community, mostly thanks to Pebble’s amazing developer relations team.”In late 2016, however, the tide turned. Groom and his friends heard of layoffs at Pebble, as well as rumors that it would be shutting down. Then the news broke of the Fitbit acquisition. “That really accelerated the level of freakouts,” he said. “We all panicked.” After all, a smartwatch isn’t much use if the apps won’t work.But instead of suffering quietly, the Pebble developer community took action. “We were downloading everything we could,” said Groom. “People wrote scripts to grab all the SDK, the documentation, all of it.” Two days later, Rebble, a resource site for all things Pebble, was born. In Rebble’s inaugural blog post, Groom wrote: “The aim of Rebble is to bring the many disparate efforts under a single banner, concentrating energy and enthusiasm to maximize the likelihood of continuance and resurgence of Pebble as a platform.” From then on, the crew got to work reverse engineering APIs, writing documentation and attempting to build a new home for users.Fitbit did support existing Pebble devices for a while, but the company ultimately pulled the plug on June 30th 2018. Mere months before that, however, Groom and co. introduced Rebble Web Services, a replacement for Pebble’s soon-to-be shut down servers. Surprisingly, Rebble even worked with Fitbit to make the transition as smooth as possible.Katharine Berry, a Rebble co-founder, said in a blog post that the team was grateful for Fitbit’s support: “[Fitbit has] been keeping the Pebble servers running even longer than they’d originally announced, and they’ve given us some needed extra time to come up with a solution for you. If Fitbit had not purchased Pebble, it’s likely that the Pe
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