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Ars Technica - NESOS gives 8-bit system a GUI desktop, 8 tiny files, and it’s amazing


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You're limited to eight files and a word processor, but you can put them anywhere you want in NESOS' rich (for 1985) desktop environment.

Enlarge / You're limited to eight files and a word processor, but you can put them anywhere you want in NESOS' rich (for 1985) desktop environment. (credit: Inkbox)

When you played the Nintendo Entertainment System, you were close to the hardware. It's why you can pull off remarkable glitch hacks, like playing Tennis to hot-boot into broken Super Mario Bros. worlds. The chips, the memory, the board—everything was designed to service the little board inside your cartridge (that and prevent unauthorized games). There wasn't much room for anything else in the early- to mid-1980s.

Room enough, however, for a custom-built operating system built in 2022, if just barely. NESOS 1.0 from Inkbox Software, a 48K OS, features "two core applications, the word processor, and the settings," according to Inkbox. The settings app gives you seven cursors, 53 background colors, and the ability to delete the eight files that can fit inside a maximum 2K of NVRAM (i.e. on-board memory that doesn't lose data when the system loses power). That's 832 bytes each, or about one full screen's worth of memory. You can drag those eight files anywhere you want on the desktop, however.

The creator of NESOS detailing how he built it—and why.

NESOS (pronounced "nee-sohs," according to its creator) is entirely graphical. Inbox notes that there's already a command-line system, Family Basicfor the NES and its Japanese progenitor, the Family Computer/Famicom. "I want NESOS to feel like an actual operating system that Nintendo might have made back in the day for the NES. What would it have looked and felt like?" the creator says in his video overview.

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