A key aspect of the NES’s success was its design, which mimicked a simple VCR rather than a computer. Of course, modern game consoles take the opposite path. They look and feel like computers, right down to their overly complicated and disorganized operating systems.
Obviously, the NES did not have an operating system. But what if a time traveler came back, held a gun to someone’s head, and demanded a desktop operating system for the NES? A developer named Inkbox, who clearly lacks a time machine, decided to bring this idea to life.
Inkbox’s operating system for the NES, called NESOS, uses a Windows-style GUI. And while NESOS is very limited by NES hardware, it’s still pretty impressive: there’s a working word processor, a toolbar, multiple desktop background options, and desktop shortcuts for files.
Now, you could probably argue that NESOS is more of an application than an operating system. It can’t load new software or perform the complex tasks that DOS, Windows, macOS, or popular Linux distributions define. But it’s still an interesting experiment.
I should also mention Family Basic, an application from the Famicom (Japanese NES) that allowed users to write and save BASIC programs to cassette. While Family Basic is not an “operating system”, it is an interesting example of how Nintendo participated in the PC market in the mid-1980s. With this context, NESOS doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea.
You can try NESOS for yourself using an emulator. The ROM is available on the Inkbox software page. Note that NESOS will also work on a real NES if you have a flash card (or the ability to print an NES cartridge, I guess).
Source: Inkbox via Hackaday, Engadget