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Monthly Archives: October 2008

I just got my latest issue of Wired in the mail and it had this great article about open source hardware. I’ve been interested in the concept of open source software for quite a while now, but the idea of open source hardware has never occurred to me. Open source software has led to a lot of great projects, like Firefox and GNU/Linux, that have allowed people to create custom software and stick it to the likes of Microsoft , and it’s intriguing that open source hardware could do the same for physical electronics.

The microcontroller board detailed in the article, the Arduino Diecimila, is dirt cheap to buy, or you can just download schematics and PCB layouts from the Arduino website and build your own. Arduino also provides a software development environment you can download and use to write custom programs to control the Diecimila.

The thought of having open hardware that can be easily hacked and customized (check out these projects) is exciting to me, because it will allow me to create still more electronic devices (like my custom DVR and Linux servers) that consume large quantities of my time while providing questionable benefits to my life, such as the ability to watch more TV and create MySQL databases that I do not know how to program once created. Many of the projects in the aforementioned link seem to involve audio/light/music synchronization for ravers and people who like their homes to look like lame-ass techno clubs, as well as “interactive” and “sonic” art whose appeal I do not understand, but there are some projects, such as this one, that I deem more useful. For instance, I could use a similar sonar device to alert me when someone is about to invade my cubicle space at work.

Jesting aside, I am hoping that others will follow Arduino’s lead and start an open source hardware revolution that leads to homebuilt versions of the iPod and cheap, easily implemented home automation. Simple, accessible, and customizable hardware like the Diecimila has the potential to do so, much as Firefox has allowed people to create their own web experience by programming extensions and sharing them with others.