Desert Island Discs

What would be the eight software programs you would take to a deserted island? To me, I’d need the following: an OS, libc, a C compiler, a shell, a database, a networking stack, unix utils, a lisp interpreter, and an editor. I’ve decided to try my hand at writing these to get better at low-level programming, and learn the stack a bit better. It’s a good challenge, but in the interest of time and sanity I will be putting lots of asterisks next to each disc.

An Operating System

I’m not going to write an OS. Maybe I’ll write some signals and system calls, but that’s about it.

A C Compiler

I’ll write a C Compiler that implements most of C89, that emits assembly of the computer I’m working on.


A limited subset of libc would be nice. Plauger has a good book on implementing a C89 compliant libc, which I will most likely follow, along with looking at some code from musl.

As well, I’ll be writing some crypto and data structures to help with other tasks down the road.

A shell

Nothing like bash. I’ve decided to write a small shell and relegate the rest to the shell I’m currently working on.

A Database

A simple serializable Key-Value database should suffice. Will need to learn B-Trees, though.

A Networking Stack

I’ll learn how to write an HTTP Client and Server using the sockets library.

Unix Utils

I’ll write some basic unix utils, striving for some partial POSIX compliance.

A Lisp Interpreter

Lisp, being one of the simplest languages, allows me to write a higher level language from C. That makes it a great target for an interpreter to learn from.

A Text Editor

Vim is my text editor of choice; it’d be nice to be able to write an editor with some similar functionality.