The contact between Archaeology and Open Source Software is increasing since several years, every year it produces more interesting and useful results for archaeological practice in anyone of its parts. If you think, just for the most common uses, to Spatial Analysis', to office's and Database management's applications, our everyday instruments are heavily changed and improved in the past years. Nobody could deny the feedbacks have been just positive. They've been more than encouraging and the people related to archaeology involved and using open source software is increasing sensibly.
We've moved our first paces in Open Source's world when Stefano Costa conceived what is probably one of the first Italian websites dedicated to Archaeology and Free/Open Source instruments, presenting that in Wien's Conference in 2006. In all these years we've seen the development of the needs and appreciation of Open Source software in our field of research and the rise of an increasing demand for not only open software but even for open hardware.
That's the natural evolution of open source software, because its most important and distinctive feature is not the fact of being free, but of being highly adaptable and that anyone could modify it according to his needs. That's why archaeologists are looking forward having the possibility even to adapt their instruments and modify their tools. That's why we need Open Hardware.
After trowel, the most common tool for archaeologist is the total station. The main problem about total station isn't related to proprietary software but operating system related. We shouldn't be obliged to use any of them in particular, but to use just the one you need.
To fulfil this wish we have thought to Total Open Station(TOPS).
TOPS is an open source software, of course. We have expressively implemented it to be a multi-platform(Unix-Mac-Win) one, to accomplish the first task emerged by archaeologists' everyday working.
To have a completely Open Hardware approach we have tested and used it on the open mobile system called Open Moko.
After the trowel, the most common archaeological tool is the Total Station. The main problem about total station isn't necessarily related to proprietary downloading software but the potential to be locked into a single operating system. You shouldn't be obliged to use any of them in particular, but you should be free to work just on the one you need and you commonly use for all the others applications.
To fulfil this wish we have developed Total Open Station(TOPS).
TOPS is an open source software, of course. It's written in Python and it's released under GNU GPL 3 licence. We have expressively designed it to be a multi-platform (Unix-Mac-Win) release, with this we could provide the archaeologist with what they need; an “open hardware” Total Station.
TOPS allows to load the raw data from a number of total stations and to export the data in several formats(txt, gml, dxf, etc.), according to the program you need to use. Extra station models can be catered for by coding a simple parser using provided instructions.
Hardware support goes even further and beyond total stations; TOPS has been tested to run on a variety of hardware platforms, most noticeably the Openmoko mobile telephone. Archaeologists then are not bound to traditional computing hardware, but can use their Open Total Station with a variety of hardware; freeing both geospatial data and themselves.