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What is actually… Open Source?

2 minutes reading time
6-17 years

Children are inquisitive and want to understand things. Perhaps your child has also asked you how the Internet actually works, what structures and processes are behind it. Adults and children come into contact with the Internet every day and are on the move online. For an enlightened approach to it, computer science lessons are increasingly on the agenda in schools as well. For example, children learn how to construct their own programs, known as software, and use them to build robots or transmit messages using small mini-computers called CALLIOPE.

Calliope-mini|Source: https://pixabay.com/de/calliope-mini-calliope-computer-2755554/

But what is software anyway? In order to work on the computer or tablet, it is necessary to install various programs or software. On mobile devices, these are called apps. For example, there are writing programs like Microsoft Word or Internet browsers like Google Chrome. Many of us use so-called “free software” such as Firefox, Chrome, OpenOffice or the VLC media player. Such programs are also installed on many school computers, since free software is mostly available free of charge and has a high level of quality. “Free” means that the program is mostly free to use and you can give away as many copies as you want. So anyone can use this software. The software of the mini-computer CALLIOPE is also included, so that all students can have access to it.
In this context, one often speaks of “open source”. This means the same as Free Software, but focuses on a different aspect. Translated, open source means “free source”. This means that it is disclosed how the software is programmed or how the hardware (i.e. the components of a computer) is assembled. Anyone can access the source and develop it further, modify it or draw attention to errors in the software or hardware. Among other things, students can use computers like CALLIOPE to learn how well-known open source programs like Firefox work. Very many people work on the same program, which allows it to constantly evolve and improve. Despite the mostly free use, there are various license conditions that must be observed (often related to the editing of the source code). A counter-model to open source is “proprietary software”, such as Microsoft Office. With these pay programs, you don’t know what programming is behind them. Also, you can often only install them on one computer – depending on which license you bought.



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