Nerds on Earth
The best place on Earth for nerds.

Primitive Technology: How a YouTube Star Gained 9M Followers by Rubbing Two Sticks Together

Despite it being an absolutely bonkers number, there are actually quite a few YouTube channels that have 600 million or more total views. But none are like the channel created in 2015 by an Australian named John Plant. 

Based in Far North Queensland, Australia, the series demonstrates the process of making tools and buildings using only materials found in the wild and without ever using any modern technology. 

What’s more, there is no dialogue whatsoever during a Primitive Technology video, you hear only the sounds of insects and flowing water to break up the sounds of John working. 

So, if the Primitive Technology channel is wholly different than any other popular media, why do hundreds of millions of people tune in for John’s once-a-month video? Let’s find out. 

Timeline

  • 2M+ Years Ago: Early humans are banging sticks together as tools.
  • 500,000 Years Ago: Humans develop control of fire!
  • 10,000 BC: The Stone Age begins.
  • 4,000 BC: The Bronze Age begins.
  • 1,000 BC: The Iron Age begins.
  • 2015: The Primitive Technology YouTube channel is created.

Quick Fact

John Plant learned primitive technology solely as a hobby. His intention is drastically different than the paranoid alarms of super-wealthy “preppers” (people preparing for an apocalyptic event) and the cynical commentary of survivalists, both of which are distinct sub-cultures.

Get to Know the Man

After a long day of email, there are certainly moments when I wonder what it would be like to go back to the basics. And, really, it’s not that hard to imagine, because I grew up in West Virginia, so I was damming up creeks and building lean-tos in the woods from the time I was a junior high kid. I just had to be home for dinner before it got dark.

It was the same for John Plant. Plant revealed that he began developing his outdoorsiness as a kid. “I started when I was about 11,” said Plant, “making a small hut from stone and wood in the creek behind my house.” By 18 he could kindle a fire with sticks and leaves.

Then, after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, Plant found himself mowing lawns for a living. Yet, when he wasn’t working, he would head into the woods and practice his hobby. When the Australian had reached his mid-30s, he decided to start Primitive Technology YouTube Channel in May 2015. Now, with 9 million subscribers and more than 650 million views, the outdoorsy hobby generates enough in ad revenue to fund Plant’s modern existence in far north Queensland.

Oh, did I say modern? Famously, Plant only wears modern-day cargo shorts. The are the only thing in his videos that he didn’t make himself: “I [once] made pants from the woven bark fiber but they were really stiff.”

In addition to his shorts, his life is pretty normal. “When I’m not in the wild I spend most of my time on the internet researching primitive technology” among other subjects, Plant said. “I don’t live in the wild. This is just an interest, though I camp out in the huts some times.”

So why have the videos attracted millions of viewers? Well, each video has a sense of purpose that is almost soothing. What’s more, they are quiet in a way that is sorely lacking in our culture today.

That and there is fire, which is nice.

By the Numbers

  • 9,068,288: Subscribers on YouTube.
  • 657 Million: Total number of views.
  • 11: Age when Paul built his first primitive structure in the woods.
  • 11: Average length of a Primitive Technology video in minutes.
  • 0: Number of words spoken on the channel.
  • 0: Number of shirts worn on the channel.

“I used to practise primitive technology for years with no-one watching. The only difference now is I have to set up the camera and tripod before I perform each task.”

John Plant

DIY

Need an axe? Make one from a stone and a branch
Need a pot? Mix your own clay and make a kiln.
Need to crush some rocks? Make a water-powered hammer.
Need wind? Make a blower.
Need something to eat. Plant yams.
Need to be off the grid? Watch them all.

Watch This

TAKE ME DOWN A 🐰 HOLE!

John has a blog where he discusses each video. Find it here.
On Reddit, the /r/PrimitiveTechnology community is active.
You can support his channel by becoming a Patron.
Stone Age is a wonderful analog board game.
A meditative introspective on Primitive Technology.

Also, Primitive Technology has generated tons of YouTube copy-cats.