Someone made an operating system for the NES

You probably never saw the NES as a productivity machine, but some clever developers disagree. Hackaday and Ars Technica note Inkbox Software has released a graphical operating system, NESOS, for Nintendo’s console. Mid-’80s technology limits the operating system to two apps (a word processor and settings) and eight 832-byte files, but you have an honest pointer, movable icons, and customizable interface colors.

Inkbox primarily had to overcome the very limited working and storage space of the NES. NESOS fits in just 48KB, and the files must reside in the 2KB of NVRAM, which stores data when the console is powered off. Graphics memory was a particularly big hurdle. Nintendo’s system only has two sprite memory grids (one each for foreground and background) and can only display 64 sprites at a time – that’s why many NES games flicker in hectic moments. The creator had to combine sprites into larger shapes.

The project is available in a ROM that you will likely use via an emulator (unless you create your own cartridge). You will not write a novel in NESOS. The memory prevents any kind of substantial content creation, and typing with the NES controller requires very slow character traversal. This is more about defying expectations, and it’s telling that Inkbox didn’t have to modify the console to achieve its performance.

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