Simpliqity

Dear Internet,

My name is Ali Mohammad and I’m a child of the internet age. I’m 30, which almost makes me a senior citizen online, but I’ve been using computers, the internet, and free software for most of my life (since 1993) and it’s given me all these liberal ideals.

Being online is all about information, and information wants to be free. When I say free, I mean it in both senses of the word (libre and gratis), but with an emphasis on libre — freedom to use information without restriction: to enjoy it, study it, change it, and share it. On the internet, information wants to be free. It’s unnatural to restrict it, and the internet naturally resists such restrictions. We’ve seen this with books, music, movies, software, and ideas.

I resist it as a person. I get frustrated when I see violations of this ideal — when I watch businesses and even entire industries try to profit by restricting information, obstructing the natural instincts of inquisitive people or creating artificial flaws in their devices to establish price discrimination or achieve some business goal. All knowledge belongs to the world and information wants to be free. As an adult and a civil member of human society, I realize that I can’t impose the ideals I believe in on others, however frustrating it might be. I console myself that it’s unnecessary anyway; the advantages of free-flowing information are so massive that I believe everything in our lives that is restricted that can be replaced by a free project or made free in some other way will be.

That’s why media and software are widely available online. The free exchange is often still illegal, but the legal restrictions are becoming more and more ludicrous; an industry might try to profit by legally forbidding Mexicans from breathing Texan air, but such a law is meaningless. Various media industries may dig their heels in and use their clout and experience to slow the tide, but it’s inevitable that their industries will change. The forward-thinking among them are embracing the chance to reinvent information economies and are finding ways to profit from the change.

The free exchange of media and software is only the beginning. Recently we’ve started seeing these exchanges appear for objects that can be printed using rapid prototyping machinery, such as 3D printers or (somewhat less often) laser-cutters and other CNC machinery. As these tools become more available and the software to design objects becomes more accessible, design files are proliferating.

We want to take part in this movement. Our goal is to produce high-quality, parametric components and devices that can be inexpensively produced from widely available parts using widely available machines and methods.

We believe in this so strongly that we will be releasing details for complete products that are as good or better than state-of-the-art proprietary devices completely for free under permissive licenses. Despite our skill and experience, we believe that our designs will improve more rapidly via iteration from the community than we could possibly hope they would in a secret lab.

I call this ideal simpliqity.

I realize it’s an ideal. Traditional business people might laugh at us since we’re going to give away all our secrets, all our best ideas will be public knowledge and we will be giving up almost all hope of profiting. We don’t care. We know simpliqity is an ideal, but it’s an ideal we believe in and we are willing to sacrifice money and comfort for this ideal in the hopes of benefiting the world.

I personally have benefited enormously from my predecessors. If academics were guarded about their secret knowledge, I would never have become a scholar. If Richard Stallman hadn’t started the free software movement and made projects like gcc possible, I may never have learned to code. If Inkscape wasn’t free, I might never have learned anything about 2D design and, by extension, laser-cutting and CNC machining. The best things in life were given to me without restriction by people who were wise enough and kind enough to simply want to better the world by sharing what they had with me. I want to be like my benefactors and teachers and friends. I want to give back.

We’re starting with a coffee machine. Why coffee? The answer will come in a future post.

— alawi