Author Topic: Collapse OS: a post-apocalyptic operating system for scavenged computer parts  (Read 770 times)

Offline Mr. Bill

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Collapse OS

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Winter is coming and Collapse OS aims to soften the blow. It is a z80 kernel and a collection of programs, tools and documentation that allows you to assemble an OS that can:

    Run on minimal and improvised machines.
    Interface through improvised means (serial, keyboard, display).
    Edit text files.
    Compile assembler source files for a wide range of MCUs and CPUs.
    Read and write from a wide range of storage devices.
    Replicate itself.

...

 I expect our global supply chain to collapse before we reach 2030. With this collapse, we won't be able to produce most of our electronics because it depends on a very complex supply chain that we won't be able to achieve again for decades (ever?).

The fast rate of progress we've seen since the advent of electronics happened in very specific conditions that won't be there post-collapse, so we can't hope to be able to bootstrap new electronic technology as fast we did without a good "starter kit" to help us do so.

Electronics yield enormous power, a power that will give significant advantages to communities that manage to continue mastering it. This will usher a new age of scavenger electronics: parts can't be manufactured any more, but we have billions of parts lying around. Those who can manage to create new designs from those parts with low-tech tools will be very powerful.

Among these scavenged parts are microcontrollers, which are especially powerful but need complex tools (often computers) to program them. Computers, after a couple of decades, will break down beyond repair and we won't be able to program microcontrollers any more.

To avoid this fate, we need to have a system that can be designed from scavenged parts and program microcontrollers. We also need the generation of engineers that will follow us to be able to create new designs instead of inheriting a legacy of machines that they can't recreate and barely maintain.

This is where Collapse OS comes in. ...

A new operating system for 40-year-old hardware.  Sounds like a fun project.  I'm not entirely sure about his choice of the Z80 microprocessor -- I guess there are lots of them around, but only a knowledgeable scavenger would know where to find them.

Offline fritz_monroe

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I'm not familiar with the Z80 so don't really know how many of them are out there.  Would it be better to learn this in event of the calamity that the author worries about?  Or to learn how to work with Linux and get old PC hardware working again?

As I sit here in my living room and look around, I see the laptop I'm using now, the previous laptop that this one replaced, a Raspberry Pi that I'm going to use for my weather station as a data logger and an old EEEPc that was my son's very first actual computer.  All are in various stages of operation.  I know I'm the exception, but there are likely multiple Intel or Atom processor devices in every home in the U.S.

But I did briefly look and came across this page on building your own Z80 based computer.  Not assembling it, building it with breadboards, chips and wires.

https://maker.pro/pic/projects/z80-computer-project-part-1-the-cpu

Offline Mr. Bill

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Y'know... I just realized we have 3 functional Z80 systems in the house.  None are in use, but I think they all still work.

We still have our Apple II+, which we upgraded with a Z80 card so that it could run "modern" software (the CP/M operating system, Wordstar, and dBase II).

We've got a friend's "Omega Race" arcade game, which also has a Z80 CPU.

And we also have a one-of-a-kind homebrew Z80 system, designed and built and programmed by a late friend of ours, which is an X10 light controller.  We used it for years, until the X10 transmitter gave out.  The user interface is a text menu accessed via an ancient serial terminal.  It kept extremely accurate time.  I wish our friend were still alive, because he would absolutely love working on Collapse OS.

Offline surfivor

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Z80 is an 8 bit processor. What would you be using one of those machines to do what ?

Offline fritz_monroe

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Apparently the TI-83 & TI-84 calculators that pretty much every public high school student in the country uses has this processor in it.

Offline Hurricane

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The old Timex computers had z-80 (or 81).

Offline fritz_monroe

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The old Timex computers had z-80 (or 81).
I wish I still had my old Timex Sinclair computer.

I still have a TI 99-4A, though.

Offline Ralph

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Here's a thought to use on more modern computers. Personally I would not go back to antiquated hardware when there are plenty of faster, more capable machines around- often found with the curbside garbage.  From https://tails.boum.org/index.en.html

 Tails is a live operating system that you can start on almost any computer from a USB stick or a DVD.

It aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity, and helps you to:

    use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship;
    all connections to the Internet are forced to go through the Tor network;
    leave no trace on the computer you are using unless you ask it explicitly;
    use state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging.

While I rarely use it to go online other than for occasional updates, it is fully functional offline.  Handy to create documents safely and store encrypted with Veracrypt.  Find a 'junk' computer, remove the hard drive (along with it's operating system, any infections, spyware etc.) and just run off your USB stick.  If concerned about the TOR network going down there's an 'unsafe browser'
 that doesn't go through TOR.  It's also handy to boot a work computer from and watch a movie leaving no traces of what you did behind :)

Offline archer

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of course, if shtf and society collapses, what need will there be for a computer? hows it it going to get power? will there be anything left to connect to?

Offline surfivor

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of course, if shtf and society collapses, what need will there be for a computer? hows it it going to get power? will there be anything left to connect to?

How can I get to the forum, google maps, find a job, find a date or someone to talk to ? :sarcasm:

Offline fritz_monroe

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of course, if shtf and society collapses, what need will there be for a computer? hows it it going to get power? will there be anything left to connect to?
Yes, to a point.  Computers are not needed for day to day operations.  However, once things settle down, it's time to try to get back to normal.  As you know, computers help to make things more efficient.  It could mean that I'm able to plot out the most efficient way to plot the crops I plant.  Nobody knows what computers would be able to do for us in a SHTF situation.

Offline Mr. Bill

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The inventor of Collapse OS is looking specifically at reprogramming microcontrollers, so his Z80-based system is designed to program multiple other CPUs besides the Z80.  Microcontrollers run many types of equipment, so his goal is to get equipment into a functional state, and possibly repurposed for new uses via reprogramming.

It's an interesting thought.  Most of us think of personal computers and smartphones when we talk about programming, but we probably interact with more microcontrollers daily than we do with PCs and phones.  In that sense, microcontroller-computers are needed for day to day operations.

It really depends on exactly how much collapse we get.  If we're still have basic civilization running but we've lost the ability to manufacture CPUs, this sort of effort might keep us in operation while we reboot the tech industry.

Offline archer

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The inventor of Collapse OS is looking specifically at reprogramming microcontrollers, so his Z80-based system is designed to program multiple other CPUs besides the Z80.  Microcontrollers run many types of equipment, so his goal is to get equipment into a functional state, and possibly repurposed for new uses via reprogramming.

It's an interesting thought.  Most of us think of personal computers and smartphones when we talk about programming, but we probably interact with more microcontrollers daily than we do with PCs and phones.  In that sense, microcontroller-computers are needed for day to day operations.

It really depends on exactly how much collapse we get.  If we're still have basic civilization running but we've lost the ability to manufacture CPUs, this sort of effort might keep us in operation while we reboot the tech industry.

ok. i can see the use there... hmmm