Unix isn’t the only operating system that came out of Bell Labs. In an effort to decouple hardware from user interfaces over a network, Bell also developed an OS named Plan 9 (named after the famously bad Ed Wood movie). While Plan 9 is still in use, it never got the momentum that Unix did. In 1996, Bell Labs (now AT&T) decided to shift its focus to Inferno, an operating system that was meant to challenge Java as a cross-platform virtual machine environment. Now LynxLine Labs has ported Inferno to the Raspberry Pi.
Not only did they do the work, they documented it in 26 labs if you want to follow along. Or, you can just head over to the project page and get the results along with updates (judging from the commit log, the project is under active development).
Dante would be proud, as the company that is now maintaining Inferno is named Vita Nuova Holdings. The virtual machine is named Dis, the base language is Limbo, and the communications protocol is named Styx. Styx, by the way, is identical to the latest Plan 9 file system protocol.
Given its heritage, it isn’t very surprising that Plan 9 and Inferno share a lot of common ideas. In particular, all resources are files, even network resources. Styx manages all communications to resources, both local and remote. It isn’t quite the same as Raspberry Pi, but Sandia National Labs has even ported Inferno to an Android phone (see video below).
If you are looking for more education on using the Pi for OS development, we found a course for that. If you are impressed that Plan 9 and Inferno make all resources look like files via software, don’t forget that you can do it with hardware, too.