I was reading the Urbit docs and stopped at this paragraph (emphasis mine):

The main thing to understand about our ‘overlay OS’, as we call it, is that the foundation is a single, simple function. This function is the Urbit OS virtual machine. We call it ‘Nock’. The entire Urbit OS system compiles down to Nock, and Nock is just 33 lines of code.

As per their other docs, Nock seems to be this Turing-complete function.

What I'm trying to get my head around is the "compiles down" wording. How can an operating system reduce to one single function?

  • 5
    A CPU is just a Turing-complete function that takes machine code as input and performs the side-effects described therein. You don't have any problems accepting the statement "The entire Windows OS compiles down to x86 machine code", do you? – Jörg W Mittag May 10 '20 at 13:11
  • Makes sense, thanks Jorg. – Paul Razvan Berg May 10 '20 at 13:20
  • "Nock" have chosen for their own reasons to use different terminology, or existing terminology to mean different things; it is prone to being obscure and somewhat mystical in its explanations. – pjc50 Oct 2 '20 at 12:56

They mean that the operating system compiles to a language which is simple enough to be executed by a 33-line function.

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