03 November 2007

Open Source Hardware: A Meme That Won't Die

Open source hardware is nice in theory, but currently self-contradictory in practice. The key thing about open source is that it's generated by code, and the code can be hacked. The same is true of open content, open data, open genomics and the rest. Until they come out with better fabbers whose underlying generative code is both available and hackable, we're doomed to pale imitations of true open source hardware.

In the meantime, Bug Labs has come up with a fun waystation on the road to that end goal:

BUG is a collection of easy-to-use, open source hardware modules, each capable of producing one or more Web services. These modules snap together physically and the services connect together logically to enable users to easily build, program and share innovative devices and applications. With BUG, we don't define the final products - you do.

Note that one key open source feature that you can reproduce in hardware is modularity, and indeed it's key to Bug's approach. And in a real sense, Bug has its heart in the right place:

BUGbase is the foundation of your BUG device. It's a fully programmable and "hackable" Linux computer, equipped with a fast CPU, 128MB RAM, built-in WiFi, rechargeable battery, USB, Ethernet, and a small LCD with button controls.

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