[oshug] Open (Source?) Hardware.

Andrew Katz Andrew.Katz at moorcrofts.com
Fri Aug 19 08:33:38 UTC 2011


I definitely prefer Open Source Hardware

On 19 Aug 2011, at 08:58, Paul Tanner wrote:

> I don't think I know what "Open Hardware" is so I'm definitely for OSH.  Paul

FWIW, I consider Open Source Hardware to be hardware which comes with the recipe/blueprints/source code whatever so that you can reproduce it yourself, and Open Hardware to be hardware that comes with complete specifications so that you can interface to it without any nasty surprises and without necessarily knowing what goes on inside.

Open Source is better, but open is definitely a step in the right direction.

Open Source hardware almost inevitably relies on open hardware: for example, you can have all the specs to a 555 timer, but you don't need to have the information necessary to build one.  Or for even harder hardware, you may have the specs of a bolt (thread pitch, length, tensile strength, general resistance to corrosion etc) but you're unlikely to know the exact makeup of the alloy used to make it, or how it was tempered etc. So most simple electronic components will be open hardware. 

The only thing you have to be a bit careful about when talking about open source hardware is that it's more difficult to draw the boundary between source and object than it is with software. For example, I'd say an open source car is still an open source car if the complete design docs are available, even if the motors are individual proprietary units and you don't have the source for them, so long as the specification of the motors is sufficient for you to do what you want with them and they do what they are expected to do with no nasty surprises.

If you take a maximalist approach, and want instructions sufficient to enable you to synthesise a car from a bunch of atoms, then you will spend most of your life sadly disappointed. It's lucky there is no one like this in the open source software (sorry, free software) world :)

Best 

Andrew


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