A look at: MikeOS 4.1.1 – A barebones OS written totally in Assembly.

MikeOS and is application launcher, barebones and a wealth of learning to be had from experimenting!

With so many projects in the world of Tech, its very easy to spend time merely focusing on the most common apps/distros, be it Firefox, Chromium, Ubuntu, Fedora or discussions about Gnome3, Unity or other hot topics from recent news.

Today we are looking briefly at MikeOS which is a rather unusual project and at the same time one with plenty of scope and rather exciting for those who really do wish to try their hand at coding.

Created by Mike Saunders of Linux Format fame, MikeOS is a basic functioning OS written entirely in assembly language.  It appears to be aimed at getting users interested in coding (in particular at an assembly language level) and its got the potential to be a very rewarding experience and much fun for those of you who have never tried their hand at assembly language.  From the homepage. MikeOS offers:

  • A text-mode dialog and menu-driven interface
  • Boots from a floppy disk, CD-ROM or USB key
  • Over 60 system calls for use by third-party programs
  • File manager, text editor, image viewer, game…
  • Includes a BASIC interpreter with 27 instructions
  • PC speaker sound and serial terminal connection

The OS itself requires only a 386 with 1mb of ram and with its ISO coming in at around 1.8mb and upon boot which is measured in miliseconds, you are presented with a simplistic, but function application launcher.  I think its a given that MikeOS is not intending to be a viable desktop solution, but even though it has few features, its speedy and stable, which already makes it a challenger to Windows. 😉

The applications MikeOS come bundled with are a simple affair, amongst which contains a text editor which allows you to run txt files as Basic code, a Hangman game and various monitoring dumping utils.  Theres also a PCX viewer and a photo of MikeOS 4.1.1 proudly displayed by its creator (presumably).

The MikeOS home page is simplistic but functional and includes some rather good manuals for those interested in starting out with a little assembly language, there is also a manual for MikeOS Basic, which proudly boasts 27!, yes 27! instructions – More than enough to have you coding a Call of Duty clone in no time!!!! 😉  Joking aside its nice to see a Basic interpreter included as part of the MikeOS package.

One of the included binaries - Its hangman....guess the city!


I think you can guess from the introduction that MikeOS was very well recieved, this project has so many benefits to users, but most importantly from an educational viewpoint.  With it becoming easier and easier to get into development there are many people who will not have the solid grounding of coding a machine at a low level, the skills you will develop experimenting with MikeOS will serve you well whatever language/platform you settle on and its a shame that over the years in the race for easier and easier development, many have lost sight of the core processes that make a computer work.

I would hope you will not only support this project but experiment with it and further your own understanding of what exactly makes your PC work.  Download yourself a copy today, for some people this will be a series of firsts – looking at assembly language and firing up Nasm!

You can visit the MikeOS homepage here: http://mikeos.berlios.de/

Tim (Goblin)

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Mail: bytes4free@googlemail.com
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I can also be found in #techrights, #techbytes on freenode.net.

3 thoughts on “A look at: MikeOS 4.1.1 – A barebones OS written totally in Assembly.

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  1. why o why dont we use nasm and linux with a plethora of useful languages and programmes and being maintained by professionals as well as users. Whats wrong with python and pyqt for rad development or use by people in other professions. Whats wrong with assembly in linux????? Nothing thats what. This is a cool project for students and if in time it becomes able to incorporate things like firefox and python interpretors and the c library then cool but until then, who needs another barebones OS that has little likely hood of being useful.

    More power to the people who made this, they are obviously talented and know assembly. If this is their pet project cool, it is absolutely worthwhile and a bonus for students of assembly. But for the average programmer or hobyist we already have linux and the power to do assembly.

  2. I think its more than just a lesson in assembly, its a lesson in a barebone OS. There are so many exciting projects a hobbyist could derive from this. Not every hobbyist coder wants to make the next Minecraft…sometimes projects might be for the coders own satisfaction only.

    I dont look at MikeOS as another OS, it hardly offers much, its more of a rolling educational project imho, but more than that its fun.

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