Just as retro ideas from a bygone era can inspire modern fashion, film, and TV trends, today’s researchers are being empowered by the revival of an innovative technology concept from the past: open-source hardware.
Open-source hardware is the public availability of designs, mechanical drawings, or schematics of physical technology, such as computer processors or network switches. The Arduino electronics board is one popular example.
The concepts behind open hardware have been around for decades. But, with the rise of intellectual property in the 1980s and 1990s, open hardware fell out of favor. Today, perhaps thanks to the success of the open-source software movement, open hardware is back, according to its proponents. In 2012, it allows researchers to measure the time-of-flight of neutrinos, enables poor rural communities to communicate freely, and creates new business markets.