[Oberon] The Oberon answer to Arduino

Arnim Littek arnim at actrix.gen.nz
Wed Dec 26 00:55:27 CET 2012

Interesting thread.  I've been lurking on the Oberon list for years - this is 
the first to elicit a response.

What makes Oberon attractive?  The ability to go to high level programming 
with less fuss and code infrastructure than most languages.  The fact that it 
can be taken to low levels is also particularly attractive to the kinds of 
folk interested in Arduinos and PICs.

Some Arduinos are built on interesting micros, all Arduinos are built on 
micros better than the 8-bit PICs, which are IMHO relics of the past that 
belong in a museum.  (Unfortunately I have to work with them professionally - 
cough cough)

However, the PIC32 on the MIPS architecture is likely to be a completely 
different beast - I've looked at it for a long time without finding reason to go 
there, because the PIC32 engines don't do low power all that well (yet?).  I 
do like MIPS, and think that would be in some senses, esp. in terms of 
teaching, a better platform than the low power ARM micros in the same space.

MIPS support is wider than Microchip, fortunately.  Making a decent compiler 
for MIPS is realistic, and adding Oberon to the list could be a good thing for 
many people, including those of us on this list with an embedded slant.


On Tuesday 25 December 2012 11:29:25 Aubrey.McIntosh at alumni.utexas.net wrote:
> I am getting some hard questions on my KickStarter
> project<http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1378252804/681865516?token=bfb4
> 0102> .
> They are basically of the form, why would someone buy my item instead of an
> Arduino.  These questions came from people I respect, whom I asked to
> comment, so I want to have a strong and respectful answer.
> I have done some reading, and I have read some pretty testy exchanges
> between some PIC enthusiasts and the Arduino enthusiasts.  Basically, the
> Arduino folks say that being able to use their wire it up user interface is
> compelling and the PIC folks are in the past, and the PIC folks are saying
> that the libraries are closed and have some critical design bugs and they
> want an architecture where you can control stuff down to the bits.
> At one level, my project is about a teaching tool.  However, just knowing
> about the parts is not enough.  I want the project to also be a nicely
> designed tool.  I suppose that I envision something like a programmers VOM.
>  Something to program chips via ICSP, step through simple logic sequences,
> safely accept user programs to do innovative things.
> I suppose I have to add that it needs to fill a niche that the Arduino does
> not fill.
> So this brings to mind the question, should I go with a MIPS processor?
>  They are available for about $5 each, and there is an Oberon compiler for
> them.  There is a similar situation for the SPARC, the 68HC11, and other
> processors.
> It would be trivial to load commands in the Oberon environment to either of
> these processors.  They would stay as part of the firmware, until they are
> freed up.  There would have to be some small design change to have the code
> in EEPROM and the volatile data in RAM, including the initialization flags.
> ....
> So, does it make more sense to use the legacy, V4 Oberon system with a few
> communication tools thrown in to accomplish this?  I am confident that I
> can pull this off, and I have done a lot of the background work to do so.
> Does it make more sense to update these compilers to the Component Pascal
> environment, so that there is a product with a lot of modern cross
> compilers, a nice IDE, and a custom made board that competes sort of
> laterally with the Arduino?
> I can envision an interface made out of something like Kepler and the
> Hardware compiler language whose name I can't remember, to make a complete
> system, but in the Oberon flavor.
> I think this could be the killer app that I have thought Oberon needed for
> the past 20 years.  I hope you guys have an enlightened moment about this
> soon.  I'd love to see a community project come together.

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