TempleOS is somewhat of a legend in the operating system community. Its sole author, Terry A. Davis, has spent the past 12 years attempting to create a new operating from scratch. Terry explains that God has instructed him to construct a temple, a 640×480 covenant of perfection. Unfortunately Terry also suffers from schizophrenia, and has a tendency to appear on various programming forums with a burst of strange, paranoid, and often racist comments. He is frequently banned from most forums.
This combination of TempleOS’s amateurish approach and Terry’s unfortunate outbursts have resulted in TempleOS being often regarded as something to be mocked, ignored, or forgotten. Many people have done some or all of those things, and it’s understandable why.
I’m reminded of a movie I once saw called Lars And The Real Girl, in which a man buys a RealDoll and treats her as his real girlfriend. Rather than laughing at him, the residents of his town instead band together and treat her as if she were a real person too. When I started watching it, I expected some Will Ferrell-esque comedy where this guy would be played only for laughs. Instead, I found an incredibly compassionate story within. The writer, Nancy Oliver, got the idea after thinking:
“What if we didn’t treat our mentally ill people like animals? What if we brought kindness and compassion to the table?”
There are many bad things to be said about TempleOS, many aspects of it that seem poorly constructed or wouldn’t work in the “real world”. I’m going to ignore them here. It’s very easy to be negative, but you will never learn anything new by doing so.
Many might consider TempleOS a waste of time, compared to more fully-featured OSs such as Linux, because it will never have the same success. Plan 9, developed by Bell Labs, was a research OS designed to be a successor to Unix. Despite some big names and big ideas, it was never any kind of commercial success. Was Plan 9 therefore a waste of time? Many would argue not, as some of its ideas have since found their way into other products.
Perhaps we should instead look at TempleOS as a research operating system: what can be accomplished if you’re not locked into established thinking, backwards compatibility, and market demands.
What can we learn if we are only willing to listen?