Companies should open-source discontinued products [+100th post bonus]

There’s a new idea sweeping around on the internet, slowly gaining momentum. And it’s relevant. The fundamental canons of engineering are as follows:

  1. Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.
  2. Perform services only in areas of their competence.
  3. Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
  4. Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
  5. Avoid deceptive acts.
  6. Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputation, and usefulness of the profession.

Read number one carefully. Safety and health are pretty obvious. But welfare? The spirit of this law is that engineers should be dedicated to serving the good of ‘the public.’ From a professional standpoint, this includes not releasing designs unless your employer (the one who technically owns those designs) lets you.

But for the good of people, it would sure be good to try. Making knowledge more attainable, and not the property of the rich, is what has toppled nations and built great civilizations in the past. The printing press, the telephone and telegraph, televisions, and now the internet have all been milestones in making knowledge accessible to everyone.

One of the next big steps is to release designs.

We have almost seven billion people on this planet. And everyone has something to offer. If an amateur engineer wants to build a tractor or windmill, it would be hard without some research, or something to work with. Releasing the design of a discontinued product does just that.

Image says "If you're going to kill it, open-source it."

If you're under 25 you're the future of business and the world. And if you're going into design, engineering or programming, you're the ones who can make this happen. Image from the Make magazine article.

Say you had free access to the design of this phone. If you wanted to make your own, you could. It might not be super-modern, but it’s still a phone. And what’s more, you would be allowed to modify it in any way you wanted. That’s the beauty of it.

Read what I read:

PS: In similar news, Ubuntu version 11, called “Natty Narwhal” is being released. Ubuntu is one of the most popular open-source operating systems.


Finally, celebrating our 100th post, we’re going to have a short best-of, so you can survey some of our best material thus far:

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