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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..."

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