November 14, 2008 When Mitch Altman created the TV-B-Gone he envisioned a simple, keychain-mounted device that could surreptitiously switch off the annoyingly loud TVs in public places. But he was pleasantly surprised to find out that electronics enthusiasts had turned his invention into a hat, incorporated it into a mobile phone, modified it into a long-range “sniper” model, and tweaked it to provide more power output. These innovations led him to make the device open source, allowing anyone to build or hack their own model.
Altman is publishing the firmware source code, board layout, numerous TV power codes, and all documentation online under a Creative Commons license. He believes the resulting surge of development and home-made models will ultimately boost interest in his product, and increase sales.
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Altman’s brother, a patent lawyer, stated “The old way of patent law is to think: ‘This is mine and I’m going to keep it.’ This may have some advantages, but with open source you can share and bring more creative minds to the process. What’s really nice is that you don’t have to give up all your rights. With open source you can have the best of all worlds.”