Alternative 32-bit operating systems

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davidb
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Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by davidb » Tue Aug 25, 2015 9:36 pm

While most users of the 32-bit Acorn computers experienced only RISC OS, a few early adopters used Arthur, some academics and professionals used RISC iX, and some users could later choose between RiscBSD and ARMLinux. These were the operating systems that were, at various times, available for the A-series, R-series and RiscPC-level computers.

There were also other operating systems that never made it to what we might call the Acorn mainstream, perhaps because they were never completed, were intended for a specialist audience or non-desktop product, or perhaps because the developer's focus shifted away from ARM processors. There are probably also operating systems that we have never heard of because they form part of another piece of software that runs directly on the hardware.

I'm interested in learning about these missing operating systems, both from a technical perspective and in terms of their impact or the potential impact they would have had. It's easy for people to say that their influence was limited because they are less well known than their competitors, but not all inspiration flows through completed, marketable products; the people who worked on these often went on to do other things. Some of these were/are successful on other platforms.

Here's a list of systems that were officially released with Acorn or post-Acorn (Pace, etc.) products:
  • NCOS
  • Panos (for the 32016 2nd processor)
Here's a list of unreleased (by Acorn or others) or unofficial (non-Acorn developed) systems:
  • AMCS
  • ARX
  • Brazil
  • ChiOS
  • Chorus/Classix
  • Galileo
  • Helios
  • Hydra Multiprocessor Kernel
  • MINIX
  • Impulse
  • Inferno
  • Taos/Intent
  • Tornado
  • Tripos
Perhaps we can collect information and links about them in this thread. And additional systems, too. :)
Last edited by davidb on Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:56 am, edited 5 times in total.

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davidb
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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by davidb » Tue Aug 25, 2015 10:04 pm

Alongside UNIX and MINIX, the Usenet post containing a reference to Tripos also mentions VRTX (Wikipedia article), so that's another to add to the list.

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by davidb » Tue Aug 25, 2015 10:13 pm

This Byte article by Dick Pountain, The Taos Operating System (1991), mentions Taos running on "Acorn ARMs".

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by davidb » Tue Aug 25, 2015 10:31 pm

I've collected some links about Helios and attached their text to this post: The source code for Helios is available on GitHub. There was a specific version for Acorn hardware, which isn't available from that repository, but I have a copy of the sources.
Attachments
Time for a new machine.txt
(3.08 KiB) Downloaded 36 times
Any news about Helios running on RISC PCs.txt
(757 Bytes) Downloaded 34 times
Helios-ARM RTOS available for StrongARM.txt
(2.02 KiB) Downloaded 28 times

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by johnha » Tue Aug 25, 2015 11:36 pm

I've been away for a while so this might be common knowledge, but I stumbled on this link - Paul Fellows account of ARX, Arthur & RISC OS development:
http://www.rougol.jellybaby.net/meeting ... ulFellows/

John.

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by poink » Wed Aug 26, 2015 7:54 am

davidb wrote:Perhaps we can collect information and links about them in this thread. And additional systems, too. :)
I'll add ACMS; which is still under development by qUE.

I think it runs on a variety of ARM systems, but was originally written for the A3000 (also, the only platform it's easy to get binaries of it for...)

I think there's also the Simtec mini-MOS, that is used on the Hydra slave ARM cards.

On the BSD-side, you also have NetBSD, for both 26 and 32 bit. 32 bit is Tier 2 and is likely still usable, 26 bit is currently on life support.
Last edited by poink on Wed Aug 26, 2015 8:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by davidb » Wed Aug 26, 2015 7:56 am

johnha wrote:I've been away for a while so this might be common knowledge, but I stumbled on this link - Paul Fellows account of ARX, Arthur & RISC OS development:
http://www.rougol.jellybaby.net/meeting ... ulFellows/
Thanks. Since this thread started partly as the result of this message, maybe I should have included your link in the first post. Having said that, I'm collecting information about different systems in separate posts anyway, so yours can be the one that links to that transcript. :)

I should note that the Wikipedia article about ARX links to many of the familiar sources of information about it.

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by davidb » Wed Aug 26, 2015 7:58 am

poink wrote:I'll add ACMS; which is still under development by qUE.
I'll admit that I had that in mind when I wrote about embedded systems, though I forgot what the product was called. :oops:
poink wrote:I think there's also the Simtec mini-MOS, that is used on the Hydra slave ARM cards.
Hmm. Maybe we should just use that name for now and change it later if its real name appears.

Thanks!

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by poink » Wed Aug 26, 2015 8:03 am

davidb wrote: I'll admit that I had that in mind when I wrote about embedded systems, though I forgot what the product was called. :oops:
Except it's actually AMCS :oops:

In case you miss the edit, I added a comment about NetBSD having ports.

*More edit*: Also Acorn's Galileo effort. Dunno if the NCOS fork of RISC OS counts?

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by davidb » Wed Aug 26, 2015 8:07 am

I vaguely remember talk about a port of Chorus or Classix - are these the same thing? I'll tentatively add it to the list.

I'll also add Panos, which isn't really an alternative in the same sense as the others, and ChiOS, which is very much in the spirit of this thread. :D

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by davidb » Wed Aug 26, 2015 8:12 am

poink wrote:Except it's actually AMCS :oops:

In case you miss the edit, I added a comment about NetBSD having ports.

*More edit*: Also Acorn's Galileo effort. Dunno if the NCOS fork of RISC OS counts?
I count NetBSD as part of the RiscBSD effort - or was it done by a separate group?

I'll add Galileo and NCOS, though the latter was very much available. :) I've added AMCS. :)

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by davidb » Wed Aug 26, 2015 8:13 am

Here's an archived link to the ChiOS site.

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by poink » Wed Aug 26, 2015 8:30 am

davidb wrote:
poink wrote:I think there's also the Simtec mini-MOS, that is used on the Hydra slave ARM cards.
Hmm. Maybe we should just use that name for now and change it later if its real name appears!
I've just run the Mandelbrot demo on my Hydra card (I was mad enough to pick one up in 2002, when Simtec were flogging them off) and the 'correct' name (or at least the one it spits out in the HydraTerm windows :wink:) is "Hydra Multiprocessor Kernel" (also, a shortened form as 'Hydra Kernel').

Given how touchy the Hydra seems as a whole (it *is* v1 hardware!), I can offer an 'alternative' naming scheme for it...

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by poink » Wed Aug 26, 2015 8:40 am

davidb wrote:I count NetBSD as part of the RiscBSD effort - or was it done by a separate group?
Looks like RiscBSD became NetBSD/acorn32, but NetBSD/acorn26 seems to have been a separate effort.

And where the hell did Tornado fit in? (*edit* Link does have a facination with ladies in bikinis, so NSFW etc.,)

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by jgharston » Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:19 pm

davidb wrote:
  • Panos
PanOS is the operating system for the 32000 CoPro. (link)
davidb wrote:
  • Brazil
Brazil is the client operating system on the ARM CoProcessor. (link) It evolved into Arthur (which is Brazil with the CoPro lead unplugged) which evolved into RISC OS. (link)

Code: Select all

$ bbcbasic
PDP11 BBC BASIC IV Version 0.25
(C) Copyright J.G.Harston 1989,2005-2015
>_

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by davidb » Wed Aug 26, 2015 2:33 pm

jgharston wrote:PanOS is the operating system for the 32000 CoPro. (link)
That's technically a 32-bit CPU, so it still counts, right? ;) I wonder if PanOS influenced ARX at all. Both were supposedly written in Modula 2 - the Wikipedia article for Panos states this but I don't know where that piece of information comes from.
jgharston wrote:Brazil is the client operating system on the ARM CoProcessor. (link) It evolved into Arthur (which is Brazil with the CoPro lead unplugged) which evolved into RISC OS. (link)
Wasn't that also used on the Springboard? Isn't that the piece of hardware described in the Usenet post mentioned earlier:
Plug in boards for PCs are available. A controller for Laser printers
with ARM, MEMC, VIDC and 4MBytes DRAM has been sold to Olivetti [Acorn'
parent company as of 1985-6] (contact SWoo...@acorn.co.uk if you want to
know more).

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by jgharston » Wed Aug 26, 2015 3:58 pm

davidb wrote:
jgharston wrote:PanOS is the operating system for the 32000 CoPro. (link)
That's technically a 32-bit CPU, so it still counts, right? ;) I wonder if PanOS influenced ARX at all. Both were supposedly written in Modula 2 - the Wikipedia article for Panos states this but I don't know where that piece of information comes from.
I think Pandora (the host OS PanOS runs on) influenced the ARM SWI structure and the program environment. You can make error-returning SYS calls and error-generating SYS calls, and they have a similar naming structure: Module_Component (eg OS_WRCH, etc). Pandora has environment variables and Alias$variables much like Arthur/RISC OS has.
davidb wrote:
jgharston wrote:Brazil is the client operating system on the ARM CoProcessor. (link) It evolved into Arthur (which is Brazil with the CoPro lead unplugged) which evolved into RISC OS. (link)
Wasn't that also used on the Springboard?
Yes, Springboard is the hardware, Brazil the software. Springboard is the ARM coprocessor board that plugs into a PC ISA slot, the ARM Evaluation System is the ARM coprocessor board that plugs into a Tube connector. Brazil is the Tube client that runs on both systems.

(I've never had my hands on a Springboard and pulled the ROM so that my not be 100% true, but the Springboard documentation and support software strongly supports that, and from a CoPro's point of view it doesn't know what's on the other side of the Tube.)

Code: Select all

$ bbcbasic
PDP11 BBC BASIC IV Version 0.25
(C) Copyright J.G.Harston 1989,2005-2015
>_

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by poink » Wed Aug 26, 2015 4:43 pm

jgharston wrote:Pandora has environment variables and Alias$variables much like Arthur/RISC OS has.
I always thought that was a VMS-ism, given $HOME on VMS is SYS$LOGIN etc., (Although, why you'd copy VMS...)

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by davidb » Mon Aug 01, 2016 10:10 am

The Various Ports of Plan 9 mentions the "Acorn ARM compiler" in the context of the ARM7500FE and StrongARM. I don't know if this means that there were development versions of Plan 9 running on Acorn hardware but I suppose it's possible.

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by Commie_User » Mon Aug 01, 2016 10:32 am

Being completely new to all of this, which operating systems resembled Amiga Workbench, the Atari ST's GEM or Mac OS the most?

I'd be interested to know how 'future-y' these were at the time, for the average bloke.

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by RobC » Mon Aug 01, 2016 10:42 am

Commie_User wrote:Being completely new to all of this, which operating systems resembled Amiga Workbench, the Atari ST's GEM or Mac OS the most?

I'd be interested to know how 'future-y' these were at the time, for the average bloke.
I'm tempted to say Arthur although GEM was available on the Master 512 (and works pretty well - I still use it occasionally :D ).

Arthur was a bit of a rushed job as the Paul Fellows talk explains. Having seen it in 1987, it still seemed like a bit of a step up from what had been available on previous machines (because of the sheer power of the ARM chip) but RISC OS was much better.

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by davidb » Mon Aug 01, 2016 11:41 am

According to this mail, it seems that Inferno was ported to the ARM fairly early on, though no date is given, and may have been running on Acorn hardware depending on how you interpret the statement about running "native, not under RISC OS". Note that the mail asking the question came from Ralph Corderoy - or, at least, I presume it's the same guy.

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by Phlamethrower » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:11 pm

Unfinished Minix port to the A310.

http://ftp.uni-stuttgart.de/pub/systems/acorn/minix/

And, a £100 competition to see if anyone can get it running.

https://virtuallyfun.com/wordpress/2018 ... arm-minix/

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Re: Alternative 32-bit operating systems

Post by davidb » Wed Jul 18, 2018 10:50 pm

I may have encountered that one when trawling FTP sites and newsgroup archives for operating systems. I should really have linked to the ones I found. :roll:

It could be interesting to see Minix ported to the later Acorn systems, at least. Depending on how far the original Minix porter got it might, however, be easier to port Helios or Inferno. At least Inferno is known to have run on SA1110-based hardware (see this file). :)

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