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What is Open Source Hardware and Software

 July 14  | 0 Comments

Today we live in a digital world that is filled with electronic gadgets. The world has become much smaller than ever before. Together with globalization and innovation, things are more accessible in short time. So the big question is – Can we really live a life without mobile phones or without computers?

Now imagine if everyone had the access to create their own customized product- whether it is a software or hardware. Imagine a place where we can contribute and create our own product as well. So the next thing that comes in mind is – “Is this possible?”

This is where Open Source came into being.  The term “Open Source” refers to something that can be modified and shared because its design is publicly accessible. The concept of free sharing of technological information existed long before computers. For example, cooking recipes have been shared and remixed since the beginning of human culture.

Computer scientists working in higher education were the first to develop and freely share software in the 1950s. In 1970, the world’s first software, Unix which is an operating system for computers was developed. Everyone had the access to create, modify, and update the software. This is not possible with Microsoft Windows OS.

Now the next question will come in your mind is, why would someone who has put so much effort in developing a software give it away for free?

Well to answer that, Open source projects, products, or initiatives are those that embrace and celebrate open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community development.

Along similar lines, users can take a piece of open source software and tweak it to suit their needs. Since the code is open, it’s simply a matter of modifying it to add the functionality they want. Don’t try that with licensed software!

Open source hardware is hardware whose design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, and sell the design or hardware based on that design.

Many people prefer open source over licensed one because they have more control over that kind of software or hardware. They can examine the code to make sure it’s not doing anything they don’t want it to do, and they can change parts of it they don’t like. Users who aren’t programmers also benefit from open source software, because they can use this software for any purpose they wish — not merely the way someone else thinks they should.

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The advantages of Open Source are:

  • It’s generally free – it has been estimated that open source software collectively saves businesses $60 billion a year. These days for every paid licensed software system you will find an open source version.
  • You can modify and adapt open source software or hardware for your own requirements, something that is not possible with licensed systems.
  • Choice: By its very nature, the source code of open source software is available to all, meaning that no one company owns the software. Any company can build upon open source software. It may be operated and maintained by multiple vendors, reducing both barriers to entry and exit. A customer can easily choose another vendor because they are not locked-in to one vendor’s offering.

Some examples of Open Source are:

  • Android
  • Python
  • Arduino Microcontroller
  • Raspberry Pi etc.

Now with Android, we can build our own customized OS or Google apps for mobile phones. With Arduino and Raspberry pi, we can develop our own hardware. We can even build a virtual mobile phone or a mini computer.

You can now become a designer and build any product that you think will serve some purpose.

Imagine how Flipkart and Zomato have changed everyone’s life today? We just sit in home and place orders. You could also build one like these. We can also build GPS, radio and a music player with Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

Time has come where we can develop what we think. The resources are available absolutely free, but are we ready to learn and be part of the Open source community. The only hindrance is less creativity and determination.  So buckle up and learn to develop an Android app, robot, music player etc.

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