Open Hardware 1.0

(Originally published in Linux Magazine issue 125, April 2011)

Open source hardware (OSHW) is hardware with a design that is publicly available so anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, and sell hardware based on the design. The hardware’s “source,” the design from which it is made, is available in a preferred format for making modifications. 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 the hardware. The goal of open source hardware is to give people the freedom to control their technology while sharing knowledge and encouraging commerce through the open exchange of designs.

The first major release of the Open Source Hardware Definition marks the emergence of a community that will soon parallel the variety and scope of the Free/​Open Source Software movement. The seeds already appear in the form of successful projects like the Arduino platform, which has shipped an estimated 100,000 units to date, as well as many other inspiring ideas that are released and waiting for a larger user base. The range and variety of the hardware already released with schematics ranges from practical jokes that randomly trigger the Caps Lock key to full microprocessor implementations, such as the SPARC cores released by the Oracle team.

What It Is

The definition is not meant as a license; rather, it mirrors the Open Source Definition, with an emphasis on hardware design. Bruce Perens (creator of the Open Source Definition) has been actively commenting on the forums and drafts. The OSHW Definition is an umbrella term meant to cover several differing licenses, all requiring that the unobfuscated design be made available with the hardware as a minimum precondition. Regardless of whether a more detailed license with further strings is attached, the definition will control the use of a logo currently in development, which will unequivocally identify Open Source Hardware on PCBs, project sites, or even kit boxes.

One refreshing aspect of the open hardware community is its support and respect for women in leadership roles, including summit co-chairs Ayah Bdeir (littleBits, CC, Eyebeam) and Alicia Gibb (Bug Labs, NYCResistor), as well as Limor “Lady Ada” Fried, founder of Adafruit Industries. Limor was asked by Bruce Perens during her Summit keynote what was at the root of this strong representation of talented women within the OSHW movement, and she indicated that she did not know; otherwise, she would be “doing more of it.”


Community members are invited to spread the word by blogging, tweeting (#OSHW ), endorsing the definition, contributing designs to the logo contest, and, of course, labeling their work as OSHW 1.0.

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