[Oberon] Unlimited Oberon System for any board

Chris Burrows chris at cfbsoftware.com
Fri May 8 02:13:13 CEST 2020

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Oberon [mailto:oberon-bounces at lists.inf.ethz.ch] On Behalf Of
> Skulski, Wojciech
> Sent: Thursday, 7 May 2020 11:01 PM
> To: ETH Oberon and related systems
> Subject: Re: [Oberon] Unlimited Oberon System for any board
> Joerg:
> > In this discussion, I miss a little bit the SW cost..
> Do you mean Linux, which is free, or Oberon System, which is also free?
> Or do you mean the cost of software development by *ourselves*, which
> somehow was not ever mentioned in this discussion? There was a lot of
> attention devoted to which SBC is cheaper. Somehow, nobody in this
> discussion said: "I bought $5 computer, and I spent NNN hours getting a
> project ABC running. Since my time is worth XXX dollars per hour, the
> total cost was $5 + XXX * NNN." We mostly argue about $5 or $50 per
> board. Of course we lean towards $5. Who cares about XXX * NNN?

That sums up why we should not be concerned about what a hobbyist (as
opposed to a professional engineer or scientist) is prepared to pay for a
development board to support the Project Oberon operating system. The system
is much more suited to professionals who value their time and are more
interested in building solutions. Many hobbyists seem to get some sort of
devious pleasure from the satisfaction of finally getting a blinker program
working after spending many weeks cobbling together ten different versions
of ten different tools from ten different sources. They typically have the
attention span of a goldfish. Once their development system is ready to go
and they could start doing some really interesting creative development work
they get bored and start looking for something else to do.

I get it. I have an occasional hobbyist interest in vintage electronics.
Recently I restored a 4-valve (a.k.a. 4-tube) 1946 domestic radio set. Most
of the enjoyment in the exercise was derived from visiting a Sunday morning
sale of the local Historical Radio Society, which led to a trip to the
Adelaide Hills where I met a guy who has a collection of 50,000 valves (all
carefully packaged and catalogued) in two containers. I also tracked down a
supplier in the USA to get the replacement vintage grill cloth and other
bits and pieces. The whole exercise, including restoring the wooden cabinet,
took a couple of months and cost a few hundred dollars. Imagine what that
would have cost if I had employed a professional to do it. 

Now the radio is working do I listen to it? Of course not. It was the
'journey not the destination' that I was interested in. Added to the fact I
was unable to receive authentic radio broadcasts from the 1940's on it - my
next project is going to be a time machine ;-) 

I believe the best target new audience for the Oberon language and Project
Oberon is the professional electronics engineer or rocket scientist who
doesn't enjoy programming for the sake of it but regards it as a necessary
evil to get a job done. Personally, I don't use Project Oberon as my
development environment and have no interest in seeing it run on a
credit-card sized PC. Instead I view it as a brilliant working example to
prove what can be achieved using the Oberon Language on resource-limited
hardware. Having said that, it is not just an academic exercise. I see
enormous potential in the use of the realtime Project Oberon operating
system kernel as an alternative RTOS to whatever else is currently out
there. However, to fully exploit and extend its capabilities it is necessary
to have real FPGA hardware available to run it on. I'm currently working
hard to try and make that happen,


Chris Burrows
CFB Software

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