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Yet Another Crazy OS That Never Went Anywhere
2000-01-06 20:00:09


Quantum Deepfried Electro-Diddle
 
If your 87 year old Aunt Edna all of a sudden started handing out fresh tabs of acid, would you complain about how embarrasing and un-hip Edna is with her rocking chair and Alzheimers n' all, or would you just shut up and enjoy this unexpected bounty...
-- Patient Joab

 

Oberon is this TOTALLY BITCHEN light-weight, highly portable operating system. It roxx like roxx in a boxx, or something. But it never went anywhere. What's up with that?

Oberon is this OS created by bad Swiss gnomes in Switzerland. The whole project is led by Niklaus Wirth, the guy who can't stop making programming languages and the inventor of Pascal and Modula-N (where N=1,2,3...). The dealy-do is that they were making this network of low-cost workstations, and so _NATURALLY_ they had to make their own operating system to go with it.

And of course NATURALLY they made their own PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE to write software for the OPERATING SYSTEM that worked on the workstation. In a blazing lack of creativity they named both the language and the OS "Oberon," after one of the moons of Jupiter or Saturn or some wack-ass planet or other.

The OS & GUI were fairly unremarkable, except for two things: first, it had a cool tiled windowing system. Most window systems (X-Windows, Windows, Mac) are overlapped, meaning you can put one window on top of another. But Oberon is TILED, so that each window fits into a particular place on the screen. That may sound totally CRAZY, but it works real good.

The other thing is that there's no DIFFERENCE between data and programs. What I mean is that you can write a little program on the screen, and click on it, and it RUNS. It's kinda weird and hard to explain, but EVERYTHING is DATA, and EVERYTHING is PROGRAM.

Anyways, the cool part is that it turns out that Oberon (both the OS and language) were written in a good enough way that they're really PORTABLE. (Don't forget that Pascal was one of the original really-portable languages. The early compiler was written in p-code (Pascal code -- get it?) so lots of people could spread it around. Kinda like Java now.) The Oberon team had a bunch of goofy-looking Swiss graduate students sitting around the labs on their asses, so they went ahead and made these guys port everything to lots of machines, like PCs and Macs and what have you. Which also worked great.

I first heard about Oberon in like 1992. I didn't have Internet access, so I had to send a SASE to Switzerland to get it on a floppy. But I got really into it and learned the sicko Pascal-like language and all the OS-calls (object- oriented interface to the OS, by the way -- real fun to program in!) and wrote some good programs and learned how to do TCP/IP programming from the thingy. If Oberon had turned out to be the next Linux, man, I would have been right in the middle of things.

But, unfortunately, this whole damn project is STALLED. I don't know what's up with these folks. Maybe they're just gonna keep Oberon in crazy mothballs forever. At least they don't have to kill off the crazy ass thing, like Lucid did with useless Inferno, since they all work at a European university and can afford to dick around with a going-nowhere OS for the rest of their lives. But, well, BUMMER. This Oberon is cool (unlike this one). So go check it out and learn a little something.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

nvious@pigdog.org


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