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Linux on an 8-bit Microcontroller

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm0POwEtiqE

There is a joke I always tell at parties that you can run Linux on anything with a processor. Surprisingly this goes down well. Normally people have no interest in hearing about Linux!

Well you can run Linux on an Atmel ATMega AVR.

This proof of concept demonstrates that it is possible. What this hacker did was write a 32 bit ARM Core emulator for the 8 bit Atmel MCU. It’s genius! Apparently it takes 2 hours to boot to a BASH shell! The hacker reports:

It takes about 2 hours to boot to bash prompt (“init=/bin/bash” kernel command line). Then 4 more hours to boot up the entire Ubuntu (“exec init” and then login). Starting X takes a lot longer. The effective emulated CPU speed is about 6.5KHz, which is on par with what you’d expect emulating a 32-bit CPU & MMU on a measly 8-bit micro. Curiously enough, once booted, the system is somewhat usable. You can type a command and get a reply within a minute. That is to say that you can, in fact, use it. I used it to day to format an SD card, for example. This is definitely not the fastest, but I think it may be the cheapest, slowest, simplest to hand assemble, lowest part count, and lowest-end Linux PC. The board is hand-soldered using wires, there is not even a requirement for a printed circuit board.

Curiously enough, once booted, the system is somewhat usable. You can type a command and get a reply within a minute. That is to say that you can, in fact, use it. I used it to day to format an SD card, for example. This is definitely not the fastest, but I think it may be the cheapest, slowest, simplest to hand assemble, lowest part count, and lowest-end Linux PC. The board is hand-soldered using wires, there is not even a requirement for a printed circuit board.

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