Jan 6

Jimmy Guterman

Jimmy Guterman

Open Source Hardware Enters the Mainstream

A little suggested Sunday morning reading...

We use this space, in part, to discern early signals of oncoming trends, and we're especially gratified when those trends show up in the mainstream. In today's New York Times you can read What This Gadget Does is Up to You (registration required), which covers the Neuros OSD, an intriguing open source media recorder. Not only does it run an open source operating system (it's Linux-based), but all the circuit diagrams for the product are available online. You can change pretty much everything about it -- and it's still useful to self-identified "duffers" such as the Times's Anne Eisenberg, who writes, "Thank you, hackers!"

The Neuros device was also the lead example in the December issue of Release 2.0. In that issue, we consider some of the key questions about open source hardware and look at some of the most important companies in the space, among them Chumby and Instructables, that are harnessing the DIY ethic to create innovative products, services, and activities. (Disclosure: both Chumby and Instructables are also O'Reilly AlphaTech investments.)

You can find out more about Release 2.0, download a sample excerpt from the new issue, and either subscribe (we publish six times a year) or purchase the new issue at

tags: open source, release 2.0  | comments: 9   | Sphere It

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Comments: 9

  Terry Jones [01.06.08 10:04 AM]

See also Bug Labs (

  Michael R. Bernstein [01.06.08 11:07 AM]

It's worth noting that open hardware requires unlocked (ie. DRM-free) media. To this end, I think that Neuros' 'Unlocked Media' brand is right on the money:

Consumers are already becoming familiar with the use of the term in conjunction with 'unlocked cellphones', So extending this to (for example) 'unlocked ringtones' and other media shouldn't be much of a stretch.

'Unlocked Media' and 'Open Hardware' are complements, each increases the demand for the other.

  Michael R. Bernstein [01.06.08 12:41 PM]

Hmm, in case others are having as much trouble as I finding the sample link for the latest (2.0.6) issue, here it is:

  Thomas Lord [01.06.08 12:54 PM]

Via Technocrat comes another "open hardware" project: building your own multimachine tool from a used engine block.

That project is part of another attempt at open source hardware and is neat in that, so far, they are doing a lot of archaeology of techniques popularized within a few decades, both ways, of 1900.

I mean, there's "DIY" and there's DIY.


  Neuro Sis [01.06.08 01:49 PM]

The name alone gave me a headache.

It will suffer the same fate as Python. Something great with a stupid name. Achieves only 1/10th of its potential as a result.

What's wrong with developers in this regard? Is it really so hard?

  Wayne Smallman [01.07.08 05:04 AM]

The whole Open Source hardware idea is a concern to me.

Who then do we look to when we want a new hardware standard to be pushed forward for broader adoption?

Just look at what happens when the big boys don’t get along, specifically regarding the future of the DVD format.

If the Gnome and KDE duel is anything to go by, the whole idea of Open Source hardware might be very contentious area indeed...

  Ajeet Khurana [01.07.08 02:10 PM]

Open source software meant that you could tweak stuff here and there and build stuff up. Though similar possibilities could exist at the hardware level also, I think that there is really no such thing as an open hardware. I can get many different circuit diagrams and product specs, but cannot do too much about them..

I think that this is a little more about nomenclature than anything else. Maybe we sbould call it Open Hardware Platform 2.0 :)

  Michael R. Bernstein [01.08.08 02:06 PM]

Wayne, since the big boys can't even get along in terms of simple things like power adapters (every device has it's own brick with a proprietary plug), or data connectors (there are *how* many different USB connector styles now? Six?), I have a feeling that open (ie. reusable) hardware designs would be a huge improvement, and could hardly be any worse.

  Michael R. Bernstein [01.08.08 02:13 PM]

Jimmy, please note that the 'Download Sample' link for issue 2.0.6 is *still* pointing to the PDF for 2.0.1. I listed the correct link in the third comment on this post.

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