It’s open source hardware month, on day 1 we posted Ladyada’s talk at the first open hardware summit, today, let’s look at what is the Open-Source Hardware Definition?
“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.”
Some notes and thoughts, getting a group of people to arrive at a definition that was good enough to proceed with was a challenge, but we collectively did it almost 10 years ago together (good work everyone).
A lot of folks have, and will, get hung up on the tools used for making open-source hardware. Someone may complain about EAGLE or Altium being used. Even if you only use open-source CAD tools, someone will complain that you’re using a Windows machine or a Mac. If you are using Linux, they’ll complain that your computer itself is not open enough because of its firmware inside it. If you happen to be “pure” enough to pass that test, someone will email you and complain that the elevator that takes you to your office to make open-source hardware is not open-source and you’re not open-source enough. Also, the soldering iron if it has any electronics, needs to be open-source too, same with any equipment to make the hardware, otherwise, someone will complain you are not really doing open-source…
If somehow you pass all those purity tests, you eventually need to take photos or maybe videos of your open-source hardware, and you guessed it – there are not really open-source ways to do that, so expect someone to complain about that too.
All these complaints are usually on mailing lists, and sometimes (now) on Twitter, or emailed directly to discourage you from making open-source hardware because you are not pure enough for some random dude who likes to complain and tries to make you feel bad.
So that’s why the word “Ideally” works well in the overview. Yah, ideally the elevator would be open-source too, maybe one day.
Yes, all these things happened and more.
The moral of the story is, release the files from the tool you made it with under a sharing license like CC share alike attribution, and the code with an OSI compatible license. Also, work with good folks and don’t worry about external validation from rando complainy guy.
October is open-source hardware month! Every single day in October we’ll be posting up some open-source stories from the last decade (and more!) about open-source hardware, open-source software, and beyond!
Have an open-source hardware (or software) success story? A person, company, or project to celebrate? An open-source challenge? Post up here in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org, we’ll be looking for, and using the tag #OHM2019 online as well! Check out all the events going on here!