Let me start this off by introducing an acronym: NUSPI. It stands for No User Servicable Parts Inside.
To a large extent, Open Hardware is a reaction against NUSPI. Its ideals include the ability to open, inspect, reimplement, and modify hardware whenever, however, and for whatever reason the user wants.
Let’s spin out an extreme example of NUSPI for reference: The device is completely enclosed, and built in a way that makes opening it not only difficult, but dangerous and expensive. Opening the package will almost certainly destroy the device, and even if you can get to the functional parts inside, they’re built in a way that makes them essentially impossible to change.
You might be able to guess where I’m heading with all this…
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Great read! Interesting points about IC’s, but I disagree with the assertion that they’re “NUSPI” for one reason: the ubiquitous availability of data sheets.
In a way, an IC is the ultimate *servicable* part, since you can remove an IC from one device and use it in another and expect it to behave correctly under a different set of conditions. It’s like a screw or a resistor– what’s the point of opening one if you know exactly how to use it?
And the data sheet is the key. While an IC is not meant to be opened, it is designed to be serviced, in a way, just by interfacing with it. Data sheets specify everything needed to work with them, including different standard implementations, so you often don’t really need to understand the inner workings.
One time a friend and I were looking at a digital photo frame thingy and thought that it said “Nouser Serviceable Parts Inside”, where Nouser rhymes with Mouser… We spent ages looking around for a part website called “Nouser”! Rofl 🙂 Good to see that OH peeps are going after this.
Jeff, you’ve pretty much nailed the mindset I wanted to warn people against.
Replacing ‘datasheet’ with ‘user manual’, ‘IC’ with ‘Tivo’, and making a couple of other small changes, your argument becomes:
"And the user manual is the key. While a Tivo is not meant to be opened, it is designed to be serviced, in a way, just by interfacing with it. User manuals specify everything needed to work with the Tivo, including different standard configurations, so often you really don’t need to understand the inner workings."
That’s ‘openness’ as defined by the marketing department of a proprietary systems manufacturer.
‘Interfacing with the device according to the manufacturer’s specifications’ doesn’t constitute ‘open’. ‘Open’ means being able to do things with the device that *don’t* appear on the menu the manufacturer gave you.
i’ve wondered why they don’t have input>chip that does everything> output circuits
but also you have to include reasons for having ICs as well
they use a common circuit in a compact package
most are redily available so it is replaceable
but i get what he’s sayin so i guess there’s a point at which you need to draw the line
ASIC doesn’t supposed to have any “serviceable parts inside”. And all this “Open Hardware” thingie is entertainment for teenagers in best case. Complete waste of time in worst case.
How about making “Open Car” first? Ah, right, technology been there already – about 100 year ago. Since then design and manufacturing moved to professionals (or hobbyists).
Oh, maybe “Open Radio Communication”? Same thing exactly.
Time of “Open Hardware” is over. You can’t design chip at 45nm technology at home or even in small company. You would need highly paid professionals and multi-billion-dollar plant.
Can I suggest that you enable comments on your blog?
You throw out a lot of interesting ideas in your post, but as far as I can tell there is no way to have a discussion about them on your site.