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Open Source: OSHW — The Open Source Movement Moves On to Hardware

By Dick Weisinger

Open Source software has finally moved from being something of a curiosity into something which is used by nearly every organization.  Open Source hardware seems to be following a similar path, but is only just now beginning to pick up traction among hobbyists.

Recently version 1.0 of the Open Source Hardware definition was released.  The definition’s statement of principle says the following:

“Open source hardware is hardware whose design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make and sell the design or hardware based on that design. The hardware’s source, the design from which it is made, is available in the preferred format for making modifications to it. Ideally, open source hardware uses readily-available components and materials, standard processes, open infrastructure, unrestricted content, and open-source design tools to maximize the ability of individuals to make and use hardware. Open source hardware gives people the freedom to control their technology while sharing knowledge and encouraging commerce through the open exchange of designs.”

It’s still in the early days for OSHW, but a few projects are beginning to flourish.  In many ways it feels like the early days of microcomputer hobbyists.  The Arduino prototyping platform has been popular and easily has a following of more than 100,000 enthusiasts.   Another example is the Ben Nanonote, a portable computer with an open design that runs Linux.  And there are a variety of Open Source robotic projects.

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