Open Hardware Revolution

2010-02-14 20:24:05 GMT

I'm very passionate about open hardware. I'm into FOSS software for a long time since about 2000 when I completely switched to Linux, but I've only recently became conscious that it's possible to create hardware by individuals or small groups.

Hardware is not that fascinating to me in itself. Sure, lots of big companies create well-designed and quality hardware, Apple being one of the most well known amongst them, but I'll never buy their products because these devices are locked and not designed to be exploited to reach their full potential. Putting OpenWrt into my ASUS WL500GPV2 is the best example I can think of how one can make his/her device a thousand times more powerful and customizable by replacing the stock firmware. Unfortunately, it's necessary to buy closed hardware in most cases because there are not many open alternatives but this situation can change in the future and whenever I can I choose open hardware.

In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the open hardware revolution. Atoms Are Not Bits; Wired Is Not A Business Magazine has lots of though provoking arguments and Are atoms the new bits? discusses the mentioned issues even further.  I don't really think that open hardware will ever take over the world and will replace closed hardware. The big manufacturers fiercely protect their intellectual property and most consumers couldn't care less whether they can hack a given piece of hardware because they just wanna use the damn thing (with all its shortcomings, being unaware of its full potential).

Hackers are a different breed. There are a several hundred open source projects out there, the most relevant ones being present on Harkopen, Open Innovation Projects and Open Manufacturing. Reprap is the flagship project of the revolution and rightly so because it's very rare for the open hardware community to create something this complex and well working, even if the quality of the created models lags way behind the commercial alternatives. I think open hardware is not so widespread because 1) most of the projects are technical minded and aren't practical for the average Joe, 2) most creators are only interested in implementing, not distributing the projects, 3) these teams don't have any marketing / business experience and 4) the economies of scale are against us (until we conquer the world).

I definitely have to work on 3) but the Ultimate Keyboard is gonna be ready in the not too distant future. I don't mind learning non-technical stuff to make it happen.