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Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2017 8:23 am
Posts: 83
This has been widely discussed in the last 2 days on retrocomputingforum.com, reddit and Hacker News.

The premise is that following some future post-apocalypse, we have to reboot society using what we can scavenge from mid-1970s technology.

Here are the main links - please don't shoot the messenger

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21182628

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ywaq ... apocalypse

https://www.reddit.com/r/Futurology/com ... ng_system/


Wed Oct 09, 2019 9:39 pm
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Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:03 am
Posts: 271
Location: California
It reminds me of Samuel Falvo's essay, "Software Survivalism," at http://sam-falvo.github.io/2013/10/06/s ... urvivalism . (If that ever goes down, I have it also on my own site, with his permission, at http://wilsonminesco.com/software-survivalism.html .)

It does seem like a tall order though. I have here at home somewhere close to a third of a million components, including close to 200 65xx microprocessors, plus a similar number of 65c22 VIAs, and maybe a dozen or two 65c51's, hundreds of 74-family logic ICs, over a hundred LCDs, dozens of PIC microcontrollers, tens of thousands of connectors, relays, switches, etc., plus a quarter of a million resistors and capacitors, and yet it seems every project requires ordering something I don't have!

We've had a discussion or two on the 6502.org forum about project computers you could get running without the help of another computer.

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http://WilsonMinesCo.com/ lots of 6502 resources


Thu Oct 10, 2019 12:00 am
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Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:54 pm
Posts: 1277
As a thought experiment, much depends on the initial conditions! (In any case, I'd much prefer to discuss the computing aspects of the question and not the backstory of the hypothetical.)

Over on retrocomputing, I found myself more interested in how we'd revisit the construction of early computers, rather than how we might repurpose a palletload of Z80-based TI calculators.

A related challenge is how to reconstruct trustworthy computing, if one is horrified by the complexity of the hardware and the software we use every day. (I think this might be more Sam Falvo's thought experiment. And it might include Alan Cox's Fuzix too, to a degree.)

I think there have been one or two presentations this year by David Shah, in which open source tools running on an open source OS on an open source CPU can re-build the whole thing: CPU, OS, toolchain. The only proprietary part of the stack is the FPGA underneath everything. (See for example this interview: Booting RISCV Linux on an FPGA with Open Source tools.)


Thu Oct 10, 2019 8:13 am
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Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2017 8:23 am
Posts: 83
Thanks for the link to Sam Falvo's blog.

I've met Sam a couple of times in San Francisco/Bay Area - he's a regular at the Silicon Valley Forth Interest Group, so very much into keeping his systems simple and understandable.

I found the Collapse OS discussion more of a thought provoker - of just how exactly you might reboot a useful amount of computing from limited technology - and without all of the rest of the communications networks available - would it actually be useful at all?

Might it just be a few isolated individuals, resorting back to primitive coding as an alternative to the onset of boredom or insanity?

It reminds me of the TV show - Scrapheap Challenge (Junkyard Wars in the US), where two teams compete to construct a machine from scrap, in a scrapyard that just so happens to have some conveniently placed essential items.

In our version, "RetroComputer Challenge" - probably set in some abandoned warehouse conveniently littered with techno-junk, there would be at least one retrievable 1980's home computer based on 6502 or Z80 and a working TV, or serial terminal. Without these planted "gems" it would be almost impossible to achieve anything.

Such a warehouse does exist, "Computer Reset" in Dallas - recently featured on the retrocomputing forum

https://retrocomputingforum.com/t/texas ... las-tx/536

If we were to assume that we had no access to anything better than 8-bit cpus with a full 64K of RAM/ROM available, might we arrange them differently to what we do now?

Would they primarily be single user, single application - or would we strive to build multi-processor machines for more speed and then construct basic networks? Would we develop wireline modems, or with hindsight opt for a primitive form of wireless networking?

I guess the question is, that given an arbitrary re-starting point, with the benefit of hindsight, would we proceed along a very much different path, than the one we have followed for the last 40 years?


Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:13 am
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Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:54 pm
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I would expect a different path - especially if a library or two has been preserved! For one thing, simple and safe high level languages would be good, and a simple CPU with some headroom for high performance. I think the Oberon project offers a simple language, OS, GUI and even a CPU. If that CPU falls short, perhaps RISC-V (it was inevitable that I'd say that.)

Perhaps nickel-wire memory could have a role to play? Or bubble memory.

But I have to wonder what the role of the computer is, in this brave new world. Are we to be scavengers, foragers, nomads, traders, farmers? I don't think we're likely to sit back for hours at a time playing immersive multiplayer games. I can imagine ham radio and packet radio perhaps having a role, and so a bit of crypto, perhaps public-key crypto, might be in order.

(I remember reading a comment, several decades ago, to the effect that with our broadcast TV and our landlines we'd gone wrong: communication should be wireless, and broadcast entertainment should be wired. It seemed at the time to be far-fetched, but indeed the change-around has come to pass.)


Thu Oct 10, 2019 11:47 am
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Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:54 pm
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Garth wrote:
We've had a discussion or two on the 6502.org forum about project computers you could get running without the help of another computer.


See oldben's post about his CPU design in a nearby thread.


Thu Oct 10, 2019 8:25 pm
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