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Free/Freedom-Friendly Hardware

Free (as in freedom) hardware is a form of ethical hardware aligned with the philosophy of free (as in freedom) software, i.e. having a free licensed designed that allows anyone to study, use, modify and share such designs for any purpose and so prevent abuse of users by technology. Let us note the word free refers to user freedom, not price! Sometimes the term may be more broadly and not completely correctly used even for hardware that's just highly compatible with purely free software systems -- let us rather call these a freedom friendly hardware -- and sometimes people misunderstand the term free as meaning "gratis hardware"; to avoid misunderstandings GNU recommends using the term free design hardware or libre hardware for free hardware in the strict sense, i.e. hardware with free licensed design. Sometimes -- nowadays maybe even more often -- the term "open source" hardware or open hardware with very similar meaning is encountered, but that is of course a harmful terminology as open source is an inherently harmful capitalist movement ignoring the ethical question of freedom -- hence it is recommended to prefer using the term free hardware. Sometimes the acronym FOSH (free and open source hardware) is used neutrally, similarly to FOSS.

GNU, just like us, highly advocates for free hardware, though, unlike with software, they don't completely reject using non-free hardware nowadays, not just for practical reasons (purely free hardware almost doesn't exist), but also because hardware is fundamentally different from software and it is possible to use some non-free hardware (usually the older one) relatively safely, without sacrificing freedom. The FSF issues so called Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification for non-malicious hardware products, both free and non-free, that can be used with 100% free software (even though RYF has also been a target of some criticism of free software activists).

We, LRS, advocate for more strict criteria than just a free-licensed hardware design, for example we prefer complete public domain and advocate high simplicity which is a prerequisite of true freedom -- see less retarded hardware for more.

The topic of free hardware is a bit messy, free hardware definition is not as straightforward as that of free software because hardware, a physical thing, has some inherently different properties than software and it is also not as easy to design and create so it evolves more slowly than software. For example the very question of what even is hardware? There is a grey area between hardware and software, sometimes we see firmware as hardware, sometimes as software, sometimes pure software can be hardwired into a circuit so it basically behaves like hardware etc. Hardware design also has different levels, a higher level design may be free-licensed but its physical implementation may require existing lower level components that are non-free -- does such hardware count as free or not? We have to keep these things in mind. While in the software world it is usually quite easy to label a piece of software as free or not, with hardware we rather tend to speak of different levels of freedom, at least for now.

Existing Free And Freedom-Friendly Hardware And Firmware

{ I'm not so much into hardware, this may be incomplete or have some huge errors, as always double check and please forgive :) Report any errors you find, thanks. ~drummyfish }


The following is a list of hardware whose design is at least to some degree free/open (i.e. for example free designs that however may be using a non-free CPU, this is an issue discussed above):

The following is a list of some "freedom friendly" hardware, i.e. hardware that though partly or fully proprietary is not or can be made non-malicious to the user (has documented behavior, allows fully free software, battery replacement, repairs etc.):

The following is a list of firmware, operating systems and software tools that can be used to liberate freedom-friendly proprietary devices:

See Also

All content available under CC0 1.0 (public domain). Send comments and corrections to drummyfish at disroot dot org.