QNX Software Systems, makers of the QNX operating system, one of the more awesome and under-appreciated operating systems, is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the QNX platform with a series of posts about the history of the company and OS.
I love weird OSes. I love computer history. I’m all over this one.
QNX/Neutrino is a pretty nifty OS, which is a semi-open platform, with ports available for almost every common architecture. It is UNIX-like, so the environment is familiar, and is so small, lean, and cleanly interfaced that you can simply plug/unplug everything above the mircrokernel with their modules or your own code. It is noticeably a real time OS, and has a reputation for high reliability/availability, which is (thanks to it’s small, elegant codebase) certifiable, the combination meaning it is in all kinds of “critical control systems:” stuff like medical equipment and nuclear reactors, but is flexible enough to present a workstation-like environment as well.
There is a famous (among OS nerds) demo QNX used to offer, which provided a complete environment, including windowing environment, networking, browser, and some useful programs, on a 1.44mb floppy, with incredibly tiny system requirements. It is still available from the wayback machine. A commentary on the demo disc is here. It’s fun to bring up and fiddle with on a virtual machine (qemu, bochs, whatever; it isn’t demanding), but isn’t quite as impressive as it used to be since the demo hasn’t been updated in roughly a decade, and the UI looks very dated.
Sometime in the imaginary future where I have time for such things I’d love to sign up for the non-commercial source access and wallow in it for a while, it’s always struck me as beautiful and ahead of it’s time in the same way as BeOS, but without all the tragedy.