A Second Look at TempleOS
February 23, 2018 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Several years ago, MetaFilter had a famous thread where MeFites interacted with the creator of a unique operating system called LoseThos (previously). The creator, Terry Davis, now calls his work TempleOS, and released version 5.03 last year.

A coder/blogger from the UK has written an overview of the operating system. It's still 640x480, 16 colors display and a single audio voice, and now you can use the programming language, HolyC on Linux. The OS has it's own file system, RedSea, but it also can use FAT32. Some people are using TempleOS as an an educational tool for programming experiments, and since the work is open source, one can only hope that others will pitch in and keep making it ever more useful.
posted by ambulocetus (32 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Is Terry ok? Last I heard his parents kicked him out or something and he was struggling a lot.
posted by loquacious at 5:46 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't know, I was just looking at the OS, I don't know how to find any personal info. I hope he's OK
posted by ambulocetus at 5:51 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

If he had done exactly the same thing in 1990, we'd call him Richard Stallman and pay him to speak at conferences all over the world.
posted by miyabo at 6:14 PM on February 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

I can understand your approach here, trying to downplay the drama behind the OS as well as Terry's...personal issues...so that people can appreciate it as an educational tool. But, at the same time, don't you feel like the limitations and other strangeness behind the project require some explanation? For example, isn't it worth pointing out that the OS is limited to 640x480@16 colors because the creator believes God told him to keep it that way?

And, well, that all the Judeo-Christian nomenclature isn't just some a set of quirks/puns, but comes from the fact that the author believes the OS fulfills the requirements for the construction of the third great temple of Jerusalem, and was entirely built per divine specifications like the software equivalent of Noah's Ark?

Again, I can appreciate that you're trying to get people to consider the value of Terry's creation apart from all of that. I just worry that people are going to be quickly scared off if they approach this thing without some warning about why it is the way it is, and what they're diving into.

For more information, see: God's Lonely Programmer (Vice)
posted by prosopagnosia at 6:21 PM on February 23, 2018 [35 favorites]

loquacious — his most recent video (from last week) was filmed in a van that looks like he's living in it. So, no: Terry's not doing too great.
posted by scruss at 6:24 PM on February 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

Anybody not familiar with the backstory will figure it out by clicking on the links. I wasn't being obscurantist, I just wanted to focus on the project.
posted by ambulocetus at 6:51 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can it run Dwarf Fortress?
posted by panama joe at 6:56 PM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm not familiar with Dwarf Fortress, but there is a long list of games here
posted by ambulocetus at 6:58 PM on February 23, 2018

Dwarf Fortress
posted by panama joe at 7:02 PM on February 23, 2018

Sorry, I don't mean to derail the thread but we've been uncomfortably through this with Terry before, and I just feel bad for him and a lot of his interactions with the public, and, well, reality in general. It's clear that the recent political climate and times haven't been kind to him, and that he's been an ongoing and dangerous problem for his poor parents.

I don't know how to separate this from the genuinely interesting and curious aspects of templeOS and the history of it.

It's a pretty unique issue and topic that bridges a lot of segments of the human interest and computer science and art Venn diagram.
posted by loquacious at 7:03 PM on February 23, 2018 [25 favorites]

I've heard of TempleOS, but I'd never taken much time to look into him. My girlfriend and I were watching videos on his YouTube channel, and it was kind of a downer. He seemed smart, but he doesn't look too great, and he was throwing around racial slurs and stuff. He's a fascinating character, but there's a lot to unpack here.

I feel weird talking about him, knowing that he's a user here, even if he doesn't show up in the thread.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:16 PM on February 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

Jesus I thought you were gonna say he passed away! *whew*
posted by symbioid at 7:45 PM on February 23, 2018

Well, call me a dreamer, but what I'd like to see is this OS evolve into a full-fledged distro, and maybe bring in a little income for Terry. It is open source, so maybe if the right people get interested, it can be turned into something more than an oddity or a learning tool. If I was a programmer, I would jump in, but I don't have the skills.
posted by ambulocetus at 8:20 PM on February 23, 2018

It's a bit beyond me in places because this stuff always is, but this looks really neat. I don't know how I haven't heard of it in one of my (OK, very occasional) weird little OS and distro hunts before.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 8:42 PM on February 23, 2018

The "overview" link is really interesting. It sounds like he's aiming for operating-system-as-integrated-development-environment, with autocomplete and just-in-time compiling and instant debugging everywhere. OS as IDE. Having shell commands go straight into the JIT compiler makes me think of the Python interactive shell, but here you're using a C variant. The DolDoc format - text, images, 3D meshes, macros, hyperlinks all in one document, and all documents DolDoc - makes me think of everything-and-the-kitchen-sink formats like those of Microsoft Word or Adobe Flash. (Good thing it's not networked; if Flash was a bad security dream, this would be a security nightmare.)

I never got much past a couple of attempts at poking and peeking on the early Apple and Commodore machines I had access too, but I could see how this kind of low-level you've-got-all-the-power access to a modern machine would be deeply engrossing for the right kind of person.
posted by clawsoon at 9:11 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

1 Corinthians 14:2: "For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries."

Pretty much sums it up, yup.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:27 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

From the article linked as overview in the OP:
Most operating systems have something like Explorer, Nautilus or File Manager to let you browse around a directory tree just by clicking. TempleOS does have a File Manager program (Ctrl-D), but it's kinda just an extension of the shell, and surprisingly you don't need it for most operations. By using the hyperlink system that permeates the operating system, the shell itself can act as an explorer. Type Dir; for a listing, then you can simply click on any directory hyperlink to change to that directory and get a new listing, all within the same shell. Or click on ".." to go up. It takes a little getting used to, but after having used it for a while I have to admit growing quite attached to it.

The way we do computers is due for a major overhaul.. Or, if you take Alan Kay's word for it, 30 years past due. A recent comment of mine summing up some related MetaFilter posts.
posted by Chuckles at 9:44 PM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was able to get the ISO working in VirtualBox, FWIW.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:47 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

> RobotVoodooPower:
"I was able to get the ISO working in VirtualBox, FWIW."

Cheers. I need to set that up, both for TempleOS and I want to try out Endless OS too.
posted by Samizdata at 9:57 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Quite interesting. I guess this is sort of the cyberpunk equivalent of Salvation Mountain [pic]?

The ISO ran just fine for me in VirtualBox ("other/unknown 64-bit" OS with a VDI and 512 MB RAM allocation).

My current God Word (F7) is "recoveredst"...
posted by cosmologinaut at 10:40 PM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

There is also a fork, shrine, which adds networking and downloading packages from the internet, which is both awesome and terrifying at the same time

I really admire the work of Temple is completely non ironically. However, I do wish that it did not have so many over demons associated with its creation. Which leads down the path of the necessity of mental illness it not for great art, which is uncomfortable at best.
posted by jaymzjulian at 11:52 PM on February 23, 2018

Crap. Will it run in 32bit? I only have a Core2Quad which doesn't do virtualization in hardware.
posted by Samizdata at 12:36 AM on February 24, 2018

This reminds me of Project Xanadu in the sense that everything is hypertext and linkable, and goes beyond Xanadu by including the code itself in that everything. The lack of a security model means the comparison has to end there, though; the lack of access privileges means any rando could trash your computer with trivial one-liners, something Xanadu is, for all its flaws, built against. (If you want to draw comparisons between Davis and Ted Nelson, do it yourself.)
posted by ardgedee at 5:59 AM on February 24, 2018

This reminds me of both the famous MIT ITS and also Genera, a popular OS for the old Symbolics LISP machines.

The no-security-model thing was considered a feature of ITS, basically an ideological tenet of the design: Everybody should be able to screw with everyone's everything, because that fosters collaboration and is also fun, right? It was a different time.

Genera (or so I have heard, at least) had development tools integrated pretty deeply into the operating system, allowing you to do things like examine and edit the code of running programs (in LISP, not machine language.)
posted by a mirror and an encyclopedia at 8:04 AM on February 24, 2018

Thanks - I wasn't really aware of this. It looks interesting, and might be instructive for rounding out one's understanding of OS fundamentals ...like studying a new language gives you more insight into your cradle language.

But does something like this have any other real application beyond a novel "toy" OS example with some interesting ideas?

I'm starting to wrap up a career as a web application programmer. Besides the PHP, Java, etc that I used professionally, I'm spending more time with Python and embedded C/C++ (Arduino, ESP8266). In things like Python and PHP, it's pretty easy for a beginner to get started, and even Linux distros are easy to come to grips with. And Arduino has lowered the barrier to getting to grips with embedded programming.

So... given that it's now much easier for a beginner/hobbyist to get started with languages and environments that also have real-world applications, why would a beginner/hobbyist want to invest time into learning a such a limited, little-used OS?

Maybe if I actually spend some time with TempleOS, I'll have a better idea why. It just seems that with things still developing and changing so fast, one has to choose carefully what languages and environments to learn.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:49 AM on February 24, 2018

I think "rounding out one's understanding of OS fundamentals" would be it. Or just messing around in an old-school, stripped down environment. But I'm not sure it is something I'd recommend to a beginner.
posted by atoxyl at 10:42 AM on February 24, 2018

I mean I got some formative programming experience with TIGCC in the 00s, so I think hacking around on things like that is great. But I'd think the reason to choose playing with this over doing embedded C or whatever is that you personally happen to find it interesting.
posted by atoxyl at 11:20 AM on February 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Did some random googling on Terry and watched a few of his videos. I really feel bad for the guy. I wish there was something I could do to help him out.
posted by panama joe at 1:56 PM on February 24, 2018

I couldn't boot the live CD on 2 different laptops now. On my Toshiba Satellite, it says "Enabling IRQ's" and hangs.
On an HP it goes into the TempleOS debugger claiming it needs the port number of the DVD but hangs and won't accept any input.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:26 PM on February 24, 2018

In TempleOS Chat, Mr God says the HP keyboard is USB internally so it won't run. He doesn't know about the Satellite. Ricky then says: ya all you can do is try diff machines. I couldn't get it to run on a dell or apple laptops. I only ever got it to run on a plain jane old Dell desktop
with PS/2 keyboard and VGA

And adds: Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:40 PM on February 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

.....I know it is kinda sad, but isn't this guy also super racist? Like, I'm sure there are lots of non-racist broke programmers out there we could help?
posted by Canageek at 12:35 PM on February 26, 2018

I guess the question is whether he's a mentally-ill racist, or a mentally-ill person who has sometimes said racist things...
posted by Artful Codger at 3:36 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

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