What does "Open Source" mean?


That’s a good question. Being Open Source Hardware means that we make the design files available for the circuit designs in our modules pursuant to the CERN Open Hardware License Version 1.2.

It makes sense for us because littleBits products are a teaching tool: sharing our designs allows for the possibility of teaching how these circuit designs work down to a circuit level. This means that anyone can use littleBits products, and then come back to them later on in their education for a deeper understanding of electronics.

If you look on the bottom of any of our modules, you'll see the Open Source Hardware logo, signifying that our circuit designs are open source. Check out more information about this here.

But Open Source is much bigger than just littleBits.  

At the most basic level, it's an approach towards intellectual property issues in general, which rose to recent prominence along with the Linux operating system in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These days, its highest-profile products for end-users are web browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Chromium (the basis for Google Chrome). It's also very popular for lower-level software like the Apache web server. You'll find Open Source software woven into many websites, and in widespread use throughout the web industry.

Open Source Hardware is a younger movement, but also has some success stories.  

The best-known is probably Arduino, the popular electronics prototyping platform. Have a look at our founder Ayah Bdeir's bio to learn more about  her previous work fostering Open Source Hardware.

It's a complex movement, and we encourage you to read more about it, if you're interested. Like anything, it's got its pros and cons, and we understand it's not for everyone. But for us, it makes a lot of sense: sharing the circuit designs in our modules makes them a better tool for teaching and learning.

Are there any components of littleBits products that aren't Open Source? 

Other intellectual property rights such as design elements like fonts, white soldermask with purple silkscreen, logos, as well as the modular connection system (including the connectors and the connector system) are reserved by littleBits Electronics, Inc., and we have a number of issued patents and pending patent applications related to our proprietary magnetic connectors and our system of electrical circuits.

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