Build a 486 Bootloader with your kid #Education @arrayfire

Here is a tutorial on how to make a custom bootloader for an older computer. It’s at the elementary school level to teach three concepts:

  • computers must be instructed,
  • instruction is stored on media,
  • the most basic instruction is a series of numbers.

The notes include links to materials and instructions that take the instructor and student through (1) starting Linux on a vintage 486 computer, (2) assembling a boot-loader, (3) writing it to a floppy, and (4) starting a computer to show a message.

I built a bootloader with my children and share our work in this post. It is a lab, at an elementary school level, that you can repeat for yourself and share with the rising generation.

The intent of this activity is to drive home the idea that fundamental computing is not the abstraction that Apple devices or cloud platforms make it out to be. Rather, computers are machines that execute instructions to process data. Moreover, the computer and those instructions must physically exist somewhere.

As such, this activity utilizes floppy disks and their contemporary machines. The student needs to hold some data in their hand and experience a machine that reads and follows his or her instructions. Modern equipment lacks any such link to the tangible world; it is too fast and too vast for uninitiated minds to comprehend. This post tries to fix the situation.

See more in the tutorial here.


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