Open Source Hardware Moves Toward the Mainstream
Mention the term open source to most people, and they'll immediately think of community-driven software, but open source hardware concepts have been around for some time, and now the official Open Source Hardware (OSHW) definition has arrived in version 1.1. Open Source Hardware refers to machines, devices, or other physical things whose design has been released to the public for modification and distribution. The time is right for an official open source hardware definition, and there are already community-driven hardware projects found all over the world.
According to the OSHW 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."
If that sounds like a mouthful, consider some of the many open source hardware projects that are resulting in innovation. We've covered Arduino, an open electronics prototyping platform; Ben NanoNote, an attempt at open source computers; open hardware designs created during the OLPC project; and the global efforts of open source roboticists.
If you still don't embrace the idea of open source hardware, or believe it has traction, check out this extensive list of endorsements for OSHW. There are open source hardware user groups, an open prosthetics group, and many communities of open source hardware developers on the list. Look for more to come from open source hardware communities, and check out some of the cool projects already underway.