January 9th, 2016

Hard Stare

Information about the Oberon language & OS, & its descendant AOS/A2/Bluebottle

I recently received an email from a reader -- a rare event in itself -- following my recent Reg article about educational OSes.

They asked for more info about the OS. So, since there's not a lot of this about, here is some more info about the Oberon programming language, the Oberon operating system written in it, and the modern GUI version, Bluebottle.

It is the final act in the life's work of Professor Niklaus Wirth, inventor of Pascal and later Modula-2. Oberon is what Pascal evolved into; probably, he should have called them all Pascal:

  1. Pascal 1 (i.e. Pascal & Delphi)

  2. Modula

  3. Modula-2 (basis of the original Acorn Archimedes OS, among others)

  4. Oberon

IgnoreTheCode has a good overview. This is perhaps the best place to start for a high-level quick read.

The homepage for the FPGA OberonStation went down for a while. Perhaps it was the interest driven by my article. ;-)

It is back up again now, though.

Perhaps the seminal academic paper is Oberon - the Overlooked Jewel by Michael Franz of the University of California at Irvine.

A PDF is here: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d48b/ecdaf5c3d962e2778f804e...

This is essential reading to understand its relevance in computer science.

There are 2 software projects called "Oberon", a programming language and an operating system, or family of OSes, written in the language.

There's some basic info on Wikipedia about both the OS and the programming language.

Professor Wirth worked at ETH Zurich, which has a microsite about the Oberon project. However, this has many broken links and is unmaintained.

And the Oberon Book, the official bible of the project, is online.

Development did not stop on the OS after Prof Wirth retired. It continued and became AOS, which has a rather different type of GUI called a Zooming UI. The AOS zooming UI is called "Bluebottle" and newer versions of the OS are thus referred to as "A2", "Bluebottle" (or both, as "AOS" is a widely-used name).

There is a sort of fan page dedicated to A2/Bluebottle.

Here's the OS project on GitHub.

There is a native port for x86 PCs. I have this running under VirtualBox, as an app under 64-bit Linux, and natively on the metal of a Thinkpad X200.