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Why now is a great time to consider a career in open source hardware

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Hardware

It has become commonplace in the software industry for programmers of all flavors to build careers writing code that releases to the commons with open source licenses. Industry headhunters often demand access to the code to vet future employees. Those that focus their career on open source development get rewarded. According to payscale.com, Linux sysadmins earn more than their Windows counterparts, indicating better pay and job security for jobs in open source software. There's also a good feeling (maybe even karma) that comes with sharing your work. You know you are creating value literally for the entire world. Historically, such opportunities did not exist for those of us that work in open hardware.

Twenty years or so ago, almost no one even knew what open source hardware was, let alone planned a career around it. In 2000, for example, out of the more than 2 million academic papers published that year in the entire world, only seven articles even mentioned "open source hardware" at all. When I first wrote Open-Source Lab, I'd collected every example (only a few dozen) and could easily keep up and read every open hardware article that got published to post them on a wiki. I am happy to report that is no longer physically possible. There have already been over 1,500 articles that discuss "open source hardware" this year, and I am sure many more will be out by year's end. Open source hardware is now a field of its own, with a few journals dedicated to it specifically (for example, HardwareX and the Journal of Open Hardware). In a wide range of fields, dozens of traditional journals now routinely cover the latest open hardware developments.

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