Tiny PC 2023 Beats DOS 1992

Got MY ESP32/VGA/PS2 Board & It Is Incredible!

Would you run your shelter on a $15.00 board if I got the original Vault-OS running on it?

Was just testing the audio and windowing functions. The board is beyond belief for the price.

For fifteen bucks, look at this feature list. It’s science fiction. Impossible to imagine this twenty years ago.

  1. Micro32 ESP32 native code with co-processor on board
  2. 520K SRAM, 4GB Flash onboard
  3. VGA Display jack on end ready-to-go, VGA chip on board drives display
  4. PS2 Jacks for keyboard & mouse at other end
  5. USB-TTL, UART, SPI, I2C, ADC all ready-to-go hardware driven, minor coding to use
  6. Onboard Clock, 40mhz crystal oscillator
  7. Voltage 2.7-3.6 with working current 30 MA (2xAA batteries could power this for half a year)
  8. Sleep current 230 ua, about close to a static comb when in sleep mode
  9. Working temperature -40c to +85c, would come on instantly in freezing temperatures
  10. ESP32 chips are certified for hardcore military and industrial conditions and most people don’t even know it. They are likely to outlast everything connected to them with an MTBF of at least 12 years of continuous working use at +40c. Very rarely would they run as hard as that.
  11. Multichannel audio output sounds a lot like a Sound Blaster 16 card (Was just listening to it)
  12. Wifi & Bluetooth with built-in network protocols for IP4, IP4, TCP, HTTP, FTP, UDP, MQTT (!!)
  13. Comes with FabGL libraries including emulators for 8080 Intel, Zilog Z-80, CPM, DOS!
  14. Windowing libraries, VT100 terminal API, sophisticated graphics including Mode-x and page flipping!

Don’t believe me, go here and see what this board can do!

Twenty years ago when I was writing the original Vault-OS on a web server I was successfully compiling to 32K in size running on Windows 98SE, I thought I might try to keep the whole thing so small I could get it to fit inside the memory space of DOS, which hovered around 520K. Kind of eerie that now I am basically holding an entire DOS system in my hand for $15.00 with all peripheral support.

Vault-OS started to drift when I replaced my tiny little pseudo-SQL library with SQLite. It jumped in size by 300K on the spot. The thing is, I kept that original code all these years. I found it on a USB drive the other night looking through my old backups. Vault-OS ran asynchronously with fake threads, had 8 sockets concurrently, provided AJAX and XForms through a very clever reflection in JSON, Signal-R for realtime updates and all this had fit into 146K the last I checked, using my little SQL DB instead of the industrial SQLite for the data. I got some ancient screenshots around and if not I will soon be making some new ones. I shifted a lot of the logic into the Javascript on the browser and avoided using a scripting language. Instead I had these tricky server-side includes that sometimes included JSON data embedded. The brains were implemented in the browser as the real applications to do stuff.

The final product was very impressive for its tiny size. As always, I began thinking of new features, graduated to SQLite to provide some big data and before I knew it Vault-OS had grown to a megabyte in size for the compiled release version.

I can’t help but wonder what it might do for my product globally if I proved a reduced size version would run on this little board. I am sure with 200K to spare I could create a complete framework for Modbus-over-Ethernet using the boards I talked about in another post on this site. Including configuration and setup in an HTML window so your browser would do everything for both the front end and back end administrative work on configurations. I believe you can actually use Visual Studio now to build for ESP32 so that would be really convenient to work in.

P.S. Spent two hours getting my ExpressIF IDE up and was able to write some new code onto the chip. I discovered this optimized threaded HTTP Server library with websockets and beautiful load management, likely compiles even smaller than my existing code. I ran the demo and am certain I can create a really impressive shelter manager all-in-one out of this board, backed by a distributed system of Modbus devices like I just wrote about in another post. I also found my old tiny SQL database code and it took about ten minutes to cut and paste into the IDE. Compiles into maybe 14K. These are dream numbers, I know I can do it now.

I always try to keep simple folk in mind at all times. The kind of people who can afford maybe $15 and scavenge up the peripherals and display. I never wanted to write anything priced out of somebody’s budget to make it something ubiquitous to everyone. I think this board is it. I can continue with VAULT-SYS when I get version 1.0 of “CD-OS” out for this board but I believe this is the best way to start. I have a huge wealth of existing POSIX code that will compile on this board with ease for a FAT-32 file format.