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Linux-Lego man trumpets OSH revolution

Open source hardware 'ten years away'

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ETech The brain behind Bug Labs' Lego-like Linux building blocks says we're on the verge of open-source hardware revolution.

"[Open Source hardware] will happen. There's nothing stopping it," Bug Labs CEO and founder Peter Semmelhack told The Reg this morning after trumpeting the biz benefits of open-source hardware during a mini-speech at Silicon Valley's Emerging Technology Conference.

Well, nothing except entrenched patent law. And a complete lack of open-source licenses for hardware. And a world that can't even agree on what open-source hardware is.

But Semmelhack argues that OSH will significantly reduce the cost and time required to bring new gadgets to market, creating a whole new breed of hardware devices. And he's sure that although today's hardware makers guard their hardware IP like their own flesh and blood, the up-and-coming generation will see things differently.

"Today, it's a cultural thing. People are so worried about hardware patent rights and nailing [the IP] so no one can steal it," Semmelhack said. "But I think there's hope with the young people, the younger generation. If you talk to someone who's been at HP for thirty years, the idea of open-source hardware is heresy.

"But if you look at someone coming out of school, someone who has an idea for a new gadget and has seen what open-source software can do, they'll be a lot more willing to accept this notion of community-based hardware innovation. They'll say 'Yeah. Shit. I'll give back.'"

Even at mature hardware operations, Semmelhack argues, the roots of revolution are showing. He points to Texas Instrument's Beagle Board laptop motherboard as the prime example, saying there are good reasons for big names to set free their IP.

"When TI open-sourced the Beagle Board, they had no immediate commercial motivation," he told us. "It's a way of seeding the market, of getting people interested in what they're doing, in their processors. And because they've tipped their hat to open source, they've created enormous good will."

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Next page: Open-source plastic

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