Embedded.com: Open-Source Hardware
Jun 03, 2002, 17:30 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jim Turley)
"Open source is a powerful force in software development. So why
don't we see the same thing in hardware? Modern chips, including
microprocessors, are designed around "soft" reusable components.
What's to keep hardware designers from collaborating on chip
designs the same way others do operating systems?
"Maybe we just have to wait a few more years before the
open-source concept catches fire among microprocessor designers.
It's more likely, however, that that day will never come. Despite
all the advantages claimed by the proponents of open-source
software, the same benefits will probably never accrue to hardware
developers. Open source doesn't translate into the world of
transistors and microprocessors.
"On the surface, there's no obvious reason why open-source
hardware couldn't work just as well as open-source software. Chip
designers use (relatively) high-level languages such as VHDL and
Verilog, or, at the very least, they draw schematics on a computer.
These files can be shared just like source code. If volunteers can
create entire operating systems using open-source techniques,
surely a few dedicated engineers can make a microprocessor. Then
the mighty dominion of Intel and others would be toppled, the dark
soldiers of Big Business would be subjugated, and peace would
envelop the land. You know the story..."