Open Source Hardware Gift Guide

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Open Source Hardware Gift Guide


It’s been a year since our last open source gift guide – this year there is so much going on in the world of MAKE, open source, and beyond that we have a series of gift guides for this holiday season. The first one is our open source hardware gift guide – these are physical things you can buy that fit in to the new and exciting category of hardware we call open source hardware.

What is open source hardware? Glad you asked – we have a very long and detailed article you can check out here, but a good way to think of it is: source code and hardware under a license (or arrangement such as the public domain) that permits users to study, change, and improve the software and hardware, and to redistribute it in modified or unmodified form. Electronic hardware can be divided up into layers, each of which has different document types and licensing.

The open approach to hardware has already made new and better projects from the open projects out there (as you’ll see in this guide!). When you’re thinking of giving a gift this year, consider supporting open source hardware and the makers who are challenging the way physical objects are made and distributed. Each of the kits, projects, and open source hardware gifts in our guide represents more than just a holiday gift: they’re a chance to support this nascent hardware movement. If you know someone who likes to make things, or wants to learn, these are the gifts for them!

Open source 3D printers, TV-turn-off devices, iPod chargers, music players, wi-fi companions, educational electronic kits, and more! Let’s get gifting!

Tvbgonekit Lrg
High-power TV-B-Gone Kit – Turn TVs off from 100 feet away, the open source hardware way!
Price: $18.99
Buy: Maker Store – Link.

Tired of all those LCD TVs everywhere? Want a break from advertisements while you’re trying to eat? Want to zap screens from across the street? No one ever says at the end of their life they wished they watched more TV – this is a life saver!

The TV-B-Gone kit is what you need! This ultra-high-power, open source hardware kit version of the popular TV-B-Gone is fun to make and even more fun to use. This version is best used in countries with NTSC: North America & Asia.

This kit comes with all parts necessary. Tools and batteries are not included. This is a very simple kit and great for people who have never soldered anything before.

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LED Mini Menorahs – Open source hardware for the chosen people!
Price: $10.00
Buy: Evil Mad Scientist Store – Link.

Last year Evil Mad Scientist Labs released an open source design for these LED mini menorahs as part of their open source electronics projects for the holidays. You can download and modify the source code, use it to program your own microcontroller, and solder the microcontroller to some LEDs to help make your own holiday decorations. Hag sameach!

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Daisy MP3 player – Open source MP3 player!
Price: $114.95
Buy: Maker Store – Link.

Can’t find an open source MP3 player? Neither could we. Here’s an idea: build your own. Daisy is an easy-to-build, pocket-sized open source MP3 player. Producing sound as good as an iPod, the Daisy can access 65,000 tracks, play 48khz WAV files as well as MP3’s, and unlike an iPod, has batteries that you can actually change. But the big thing about Daisy is the ease with which it interfaces with so many devices, including the Make Controller. It is the perfect MP3 kit for Makers, for it is easily integrated into kiosks, displays, art installations, or just about anything else you can dream up. Schematics and more on the how-to pages.

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Chumby – Open source wi-fi bean bag computer.
Price: $179.00
Buy: – Link.

The Chumby is a compact device that displays useful and entertaining information from the web using your wireless internet connection. Wi-fi connectivity, access to the free Chumby Network, 3.5″ LCD color touchscreen, two external USB 2.0 full-speed ports, 350 MHz ARM processor, 64 MB SDRAM, 64 MB NAND flash ROM, stereo 2W speakers, headphone output, squeeze sensor, accelerometer (motion sensor), leather casing, and AC adapter included. Source and schematics in the developer section of the site. It’s open source and probably the best and cheapest tiny Linux computer you could ever hack on. I really admire the Chumby team and especially Bunnie for putting so much thought in to the openness of their product. See how the Chumby was made here.

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MiniPOV– An inexpensive “persistence of vision”: spell words in the air or on a bicycle wheel!
Price: $17.99
Buy: Maker Store – Link.

A third generation of original MiniPOV, it can spell words you program IN THE AIR! This upgraded versions makes it easier for people to build: no microcontroller-programming device is needed, and the source code is in C, not assembly. And it includes high-quality PCBs and LEDs. The MiniPOV project is an ideal starting place for anyone who wants to: learn how to solder; learn how to assemble simple kits; learn how to program microcontrollers; and make blinky stuff. Source and schematics available on the how-to pages.

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What else can you do with one of these? Make a brain machine with it! Get altered states of consciousness with this open source sound and light device based on the MiniPOV. Yay open source!

Arduino Diecimila – Open source physical computing!
Price: $34.99
Buy: Maker Store – Link.

Arduino is a tool for making computers that can sense and control more of the physical world than your desktop computer. It’s an open source physical computing platform based on a simple microcontroller board, and a development environment for writing software for the board.

Arduino can be used to develop interactive objects, taking inputs from a variety of switches or sensors, and controlling a variety of lights, motors, and other physical outputs. Arduino projects can be standalone, or they can be communicate with software running on your computer (e.g. Flash, Processing, MaxMSP). The boards can be assembled by hand or purchased preassembled; the open source IDE can be downloaded for free.

The Arduino programming language is an implementation of Wiring, a similar physical computing platform, which is based on the Processing multimedia programming environment. Arduino is open source!

The Arduino Diecimila is a microcontroller board based on the ATmega168 (datasheet). It has 14 digital input/output pins (of which 6 can be used as PWM outputs), 6 analog inputs, a 16MHz crystal oscillator, a USB connection, a power jack, an ICSP header, and a reset button. It contains everything needed to support the microcontroller; simply connect it to a computer with a USB cable or power it with a AC-to-DC adapter or battery to get started.

“Diecimila” means 10,000 in Italian and was named thusly to mark the fact that over 10,000 Arduino boards have been made. There are HUNDREDS of projects you can make and learn with Arduino!

ProtoShield for Arduino Kit – Give the gift of prototyping, fast!
Price: $17.99
Buy: Maker Store – Link.

An open source prototyping shield for Arduino NG/Diecimila. It has tons of cool features. To make prototyping on your Arduino easy, you’ll want to get (or give this) if you’re getting an Arduino Diecimila.

MintyBoost USB Charger Kit v1.2 – DIY iPod charger and more!
Price: $19.99
Buy: Maker Store – Link.

Everything you need to make your own small & simple, but very powerful USB charger for your iPod, MP3 player, camera, cellphone, and any other gadget you can plug into a USB port to charge! Uses 2 AA batteries (not included), and more than doubles your iPod 4G/5G battery life! Schematics available on the how-to pages.

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Firefly – Tiny open source hardware guitar amp!
Price: $19.00
Buy: PCB only – Link.

The Firefly is a tube-based guitar amplifier popularized on (a tube amp community and forum). The Firefly PCB was created so even the beginner to tube amps can succeed. The PCB is “open hardware” meaning that the PCB file is free to download and modify as well. Otherwise the PCBs are sold for $19 each. There’s a detailed assembly guide as well for download at the site.

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Bare Bones Arduino Board Kit – Low-cost Arduino clone!
Price: $19.99
Buy: Maker Store – Link.

Want to learn electronics? This might be your first stop, or second stop if you’re looking for a low-cost Arudino clone! Despite the Bare-Bones name, the BBB is a full-featured Arduino-compatible kit that includes the vast majority of the functionality of the Arduino Diecimila. The latest revision even includes some analog noise-reduction features not found on other official Arduino boards. Breadboard-friendly options on the BBB are also not found on other official Arduino boards. Two interfaces available: A P4 Serial Adapters & cable, which allows serial port programming of Bare Bones Boards and other microcontrollers. However, the board was specifically designed to work with a FTDI TTL-232R USB-to-TTL serial cable, also available. Schematic, Gerbers, CAD file for Bare-Bones Board Rev. C available on the how-to pages.

LED Micro-Readerboard Kit – The gift of learnin’!
Price: $15.00
Buy: Maker Store – Link.

The LED Micro-Readerboard, designed by Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, is a fun little open source soldering kit that provides an introduction to the capabilities of microcontrollers. The readerboard spells out preprogrammed messages such as “MAKE” or “HELLO WORLD” one letter at a time on its alphanumeric LED display. Fifteen phrases are included and holiday messages can be optionally enabled as well–for use as a holiday ornament. The kit comes complete with easy, comic-book-style instructions and a pre-programmed microcontroller. No programming is needed, but source code is available in case you want to hack it.

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Digg Button – Give the gift of diggin’.
Price: $15.00 ($1 of each sale goes to the EFF)
Buy: Adafruit store – Link.

The Digg button is a very simple beginner electronics that teaches how to solder and program a microcontroller. Once made, this basic electronic project mimics the popular website: each time you push the button, the button flashes “Dug” and increments the counter up to 999 “diggs.” The project is completely open source and documented here, including parts list, schematics, and code.

MAKE Controller Kit – Control anything!
Price: $149.95
Buy: Maker Store – Link.

Wide-ranging fields have been revolutionized –or even made possible–by microcontrollers, including industrial robotics, automotive engineering, special F/X, irrigation, interactive exhibits, motor control, and all kinds of research. For a long time these powerful chips, and the tools required to use them, were so specialized that few people could explore their potential without a formal background in electronics and software engineering.

MAKE magazine approached MakingThings to create the MAKE Controller Kit, a next-generation family of modular, programmable controller boards. We were delighted, and we’re even more delighted to announce that the kit is now available. It’s an Atmel SAM7X processor, ARM7, 32-bit, 256K Flash, 64K SRAM, up to 55MHz and 48 MIPS, and source and schematics are included in the documentation.

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RepRap & Fab@Home – Give the gift of 3D printing and join the desktop fabrication revolution!
Price: $60+ & $3,000+
Buy: RepRap store – Link.
Buy: Fab@Home / Koba Industries – Link.

(From Fab@Home) — Open source kits that lets you make your own simple fabber, and use it to print three-dimensional objects. You can download and print various items, try out new materials, or upload and share your own projects. Advanced users can modify and improve the fabber itself. Fabbers (a.k.a 3D Printers or rapid prototyping machines) are a relatively new form of manufacturing that builds 3D objects by carefully depositing materials drop by drop, layer by layer. Slowly but surely, with the right set of materials and a geometric blueprint, you can fabricate complex objects that would normally take special resources, tools, and skills if produced using conventional manufacturing techniques.

And that’s a wrap! Wait you’re supposed to do the wrapping now! Did we forget one? Have suggestions? Post on up in the comments–and happy holidays!

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