It is in education that open-source hardware and software are often most widely embraced. Whether it is using gEDA for schematic simulation, or CooCox as an IDE, there is a vast constellation of tools available for teaching. With growing forums, from Stackoverflow and GitHub to our own element14 community, the support for open-source projects has never been as great or accessible, adding another dimension to open-source development. University courses are now frequently taught using boards such as the chipKIT Uno 32™ and commonly the original Arduino Uno, allowing students to take their first steps into Microchip’s PIC32MX or Atmel’s 8-bit ATmega328, though there is also increasing interest in teaching ARM 32-bit architectures. Affordable ARM®Cortex™- M series boards such as the Cookie, coupled with IDEs that are either free as trials from major manufacturers or completely open-source, have lowered the barrier to entry.
A new generation of engineers inspired by the open-source movement is already emerging and with a whole universe of open-source IDEs, debuggers, programmers and development platforms to support them we are witnessing a hardware revolution akin to what Linux achieved for operating systems. Just as Android presents the sleek face of tens of thousands of hours of combined effort worldwide and has become by far the biggest smart phone operating system, the humble beginnings of hardware projects that we see on Hack a Day and element14 may one day lead to phenomenal global advances.