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The well-structured practices of semiconductor design and manufacturing have been flipped on their sides and may never be the same again. The quickly changing dynamics and success of the open-source silicon movement are expanding the small community of specialized designers to an era of creative enablement where anyone anywhere with innate skills can get their chip designs into silicon.

In the process, chip design will be democratized.

The value proposition of open source is compelling, much as Linux was to IT in the 1990s. It meets an industry goal to find a way to multiply the number of designers to offset the shortage of experienced engineers and offers something for everyone. Notably, software and hardware developers create proof of concepts and purpose-built silicon for applications such as IoT and machine learning.

Industry watchers, including editors and contributors to EE Times who wrote articles for The Rise of Open Hardware, consider RISC-V and its open instruction set architecture (ISA) for CPU designs to be the driver. It is only one piece of the story, albeit an important one, and certainly not the whole story of the growing open-source movement. Equally, design tools and an open-source platform are only a small but key piece of the story.

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