Appreciating BBB's commitment to open source
BBB has another very important quality: it is Open Source Hardware ( OSHW ). OSHW
is a relatively new concept, the exact definition of which may confuse people. However,
there is a group, the OSHW Association ( OSHWA ), whose mission is to educate and pro-
mote OSHW. Their definition is maintained on their website: http://www.oshwa.org/defini-
The definition of OSHW is well over a page. The complication with defining OSHW from
open source software is that hardware is a physical thing . There are design files to manu-
facture hardware, but there are physical components also. To make a software analogy, the
compiler for the hardware is the manufacturer. Therefore, the definition of OSHW is care-
fully constructed and it generally applies to the design files of the hardware.
Alicia Gibb, the Executive Director of OSHWA, gave a TEDx talk called The Death of
Patents and What Comes After ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z__Sbw1Ax4o ). The
talk illustrates how hardware design straddles both copyrights and patent law. Alicia also
provides some interesting insights on the incentives behind patents and OSHW.
BBB is OSHW, in that it releases documentation, schematics, Computer-Aided Design
( CAD ) files, Bill Of Materials ( BOM ), and production files (Gerbers), all under a Creat-
ive Commons license. This means that you can not only study the complete design but you
are also free to make your own derivative BBB.