Re: Cricket on digital

Todd K7TFC

​On Fri, Apr 14, 2017 Tommy Gober tommy@... <4sqrp@...> wrote:
There's no reason a kit should sit idle because the kit maker mothballed it. This is why the ham community should push for projects to be made open source after a few years of exclusive kit sales.

​Well, something is either open source or it's not. "Open source after a few years" is oxymoronic. Open source is both a personal philosophy and a business strategy. As a philosophy, it is based on the observation that what a person designs (or writes or even thinks) is 99.9% the work of other people anyway. I've never seen a radio design that didn't depend on design principles long and openly available: the fundamental principles of RF physics--most of which are of 19th century origin--and the oscillator, filter, and amplifier topologies, developed in the 20th century. DDS, DSP, and SDR are based on trigonometric manipulations and semiconductor methodologies that their designers didn't invent either.

This is not to suggest that designers such as Doug Demaw, Wes Hayward, Ashar Farhan, and others made no contributions to the radio art, but I think it's important to keep things in perspective when asserting ownership over a particular design that was, in essence, simply the rearranging of design elements borrowed from other people.

If a design element is creative enough such that it exists no where else (yet), it can of course be patented as a form of enforceable government protection of a limited proprietary right, but these days the bar seems to be pretty low in terms of creativity. The trouble with patents, though, it that they require the public disclosure of the supposedly-creative elements, thus showing all who care to look just how the "innovation" works. A more secure approach is to just keep the design as secret as possible--hence the commercial use of house numbers for components, or the erasing or obscuring of vendor part numbers. Certainly the publishing of a full schematic--outside the ethics of Open Source--is virtually unknown; especially in our era of "no user-serviceable parts" products.

By application, then, to Ham radio designers of kits, if they want to be the exclusive owner of their designs, they should refrain from publishing their schematics, parts lists, and design theory. The reason that's never done is that the ethos of Ham radio is the open sharing of knowledge and design. It's also not done because the primary incentive in the case of Ham radio is recognition and a sense of contribution rather than for profit.

In philosophical logic then--if not in intent--the designer of the kit is a separate entity from the seller, even if it's the same person. As a designer, he or she creates and shares knowledge. As a seller, he buys and packages components for sale to others. This is the core of Open Source business. Knowledge (including design) is freely available, but you have to pay for hardware. In our case, the designer/seller of a kit has a big advantage over other potential sellers in that his was the first and the one most likely to be associated with it in the customer's mind. If there is an element of price or feature competition involved later, all the better for everyone.


K7TFC / Portland, Oregon, USA /
/ UTC-

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