Introducing Collapse OS, a z80 kernel that can be designed with “scavenged parts and program microcontrollers”

3 min read

There is a new operating system in the market which is designed in anticipation of the collapse of the current economic system – Collapse OS. The goal of this project is “to be as self-contained as possible.” With a copy of this project, its developer Virgil Dupras says, a capable person will be able to easily build and install Collapse OS without external resources. It will also be possible to build a machine with an exclusive design, and from discarded parts with low-tech tools.

Dupras believes that the global supply chain will collapse before 2030 and post-collapse, it would be difficult to reproduce most of the electronics due to lack of supply chain. This will make it impossible to bootstrap the new electronic technology and thus limit its growth. At this point, Dupras says, Collapse OS can prove to be a good “starter kit”. He affirms that this operating system can be designed from “scavenged parts and program microcontrollers” with sufficient RAM and storage.

Basically, Collapse OS is a z80 kernel, with a collection of programs, tools, and documentation to assemble an operating system. It can run on minimal and improvised machines and enables interfacing through improvised means like serial, keyboard, display. The Collapse Operating System can edit text and compile assembler source files for a wide range of microcontrollers and CPUs. It can also read and write from a wide range of storage devices and replicate itself.

What is the current status of Collapse OS?

Collapse OS is built from a GNU environment with minimal tooling and only requires libz80, which is an emulator of the z80 processor. It also has a shell that can poke memory, I/O, call arbitrary code from memory. It can also read SD cards and has a text editor modeled after UNIX’s ed.

Two days ago, a 5K binary zasm with a 2400 SLOC and 8K RAM usage was added in the apps, with an aim to assemble kernel or itself. Currently, Collapse OS can run on an RC2014 through a serial link with a directly plugged in PS/2 keyboard. It also runs on a Sega Master System or a MegaDrive (Genesis) with video output and D-Pad input and/or a PS/2 keyboard adapter.

The unique concept of Collapse OS has led to an informative discussion on Hacker News. One of the queries included the availability of a rad-hardened version of z80. A user answered,

“Given the relative simplicity of a z80 compared to newer CPU designs, it should be relatively “easy” to harden it. There was definitely a rad-hardened version of the 8085 (similar to the 8080, and therefore to the z80), which was used on the Sojourner rover (among various other NASA and ESA spacecraft). Seems like RISC processors were more common for this, though (looks like most relatively-recent NASA spacecraft – including pretty much all of NASA’s Mars landers after Sojourner – use(d) rad-hardened POWER CPUs, e.g. the RAD6000 and RAD750).”

Many users have found the concept of Collapse OS interesting.

A Redditor says, “This is so insanely cool, definitely the coolest project I have seen in a while. I am dry interested in minimal software (void Linux and suckles fanatic) but this is taking it to a new level. I have a ton of respect for people who work on projects geared towards more advanced users, I know that most of the time it’s a thankless job but please, for the love of god keep it up. We need more devs like this in the world!”

Read the Collapse OS roadmap page for more information. You can also check out its Github for more details.

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