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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

Talking About Open Source Lynnette Reese

Some people are still confused about open source. Granted, the term is a bit over-used, but people are still referring to some educational products as open source. There’s a huge difference.

Open source hardware (OSHW) offers schematics, software, everything that is printable is free to use as you like. The Raspberry Pi (RPi) has a copyright notice on its schematics, so it is not true OSHW. However, the RPi is accessible via a low price. And it's popular with educators. But it's not near to being OSHW like Arduino, Launchpad, Beagleboard, and even the Intel Galileo & Edison products. 

As far as I can discern, “open source” started with Linux in the user space, then migrated to embedded applications because it was royalty free and maintained by an army of altruistic engineers and computer scientists. (Even without a college degree, I would call anyone whose contributions are incorporated into a Linux tree as having earned the title.) 

Open source hardware is another realm, different from software, but only because you can't sustain a free hardware model due to its physical nature...but you can minimize the cost as much as possible and at least make the HW accessible. As for open source in general, there is an open source beehives movement, open source text books, and open source customer relationship management packages. (Just to name a few.) These are products that are free to use, but true open source offers the user the ability to improve the product, sell it for profit, and contribute back to the source via community. Open source taps the original scientific concept of sharing intelligence via publishing without patent. The Henrietta Lacks story is one example.The HeLa cells were groundbreaking, and like sour dough starter, given away freely and without patent or copyright. This is what open source is opening: a veritable renaissance in the sharing of ideas without fear of reprisal via courts and capitalism.


"Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951)" by [1]. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

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Lynnette Reese holds a B.S.E.E from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Lynnette has worked at Mouser Electronics, Texas Instruments, Freescale (now NXP), and Cypress Semiconductor. Lynnette has three kids and occasionally runs benign experiments on them. She is currently saving for the kids’ college and eventual therapy once they find out that cauliflower isn’t a rare albino broccoli (and other white lies.)

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