Thoughts on CollapseOS

CollapseOS 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.

Additionally, the goal of this project is to be as self-contained as possible. With a copy of this project, a capable and creative person should be able to manage to build and install Collapse OS without external resources (i.e. internet) on a machine of her design, built from scavenged parts with low-tech tools.

While I obviously love this idea (it squares nicely with some of the ideas behind the KZ80), I think there's a significant gap that it's missing, though it's entirely possible I'm missing something.

They target the RC2014, which is great (I love mine). But, the RC2014 is a serial machine. What are you going to connect to it? You basically need a computer to connect to it which many people use a Raspberry Pi (a computer) for; this is why I'm working on a standalone serial console. Durable though the Z80 is, display technology doesn't seem to be. You could probably get by with composite video, if you could scrounge up an appropriate display. There's a plethora of LCD controllers and whatnot, but not really a standard way to access them. A truly collapse-resistent OS would need a library handling a number of common displays.

Then we come to keyboards, where you need either a full matrix setup or something that translates PS/2 or USB to something the Z80 understands. Both require significant support circuitry to work with.

So it seems to me the real problem with this is the durability of interfaces. Maybe I'm just dumb, and maybe I'm overthinking it. But this problem, for me, has been the hardest part of building a Z80 laptop.