The Open Source Hardware definition has reached v1.0! I’m proud to say that all of my kits fully comply with the definition, and will continue to do so in the future. I feel very strongly about the free culture movement, and believe that it is the best way of going about things. Knowledge and digital resources should be free.
I actually learned electronics through exploring things online. If people would not have posted their projects and code for me to learn with, then I would probably still be doing systems administration. I would have still bought kits and soldered them together, but I would not have progressed as quickly as I did if the resources had not been available online, open source, and free.
That is why I’ve allowed for commercial use in my licensing from the start, and I’m glad that it’s in the OSHW definition. Basically, hardware costs money. If you can’t at least make the money back for your project, you are far less likely to move beyond a small production run. That means that anyone can also download my source, and create kits that directly compete with me. However, they are then held to the same license, and must release the modified source as well.
That allows for a project to progress very quickly. I’ll admit it, I get board of things if they aren’t new or interesting, so it’s good for others to keep me on my toes, and it keeps me creating instead of just sitting on my laurels. It also means, that if someone moves into my space with an improved kit, that I can incorporate the improvements into the main project and then sell a better product myself. This is a market where first-seller has a distinct advantage.
The most common question I get asked is about larger kit makers taking my design and selling it. I’ve been approached by some of them, and they actually just buy the kits from me instead of kitting it up themselves. Theoretically if I’m doing my job and meeting market demand, then even large sellers are going to have a hard time getting into the market at the same volumes, and volume is how I make money with my kits. I’m just a small seller, but I’m making enough to live on and travel around the world.
In short, I make a living giving away my intellectual property, and I make enough money to live on plus travel around the world. I don’t make nearly as much as I did as a systems administrator, but I can honestly say that I love what I’m doing. I’m also constantly inspired by the others who are involved in the movement, and I’m extremely happy that I’m able to continue doing this.