Some time ago I asked about redesigning computer from scratch in post-apocalyptic setting. Nevertheless such approach may seem a bit like reinventing the wheel... So I'd try to look at the same issue from a bit different perspective...

Which computer related technologies would have the highest chance to leave useful blueprints that can be used in a post-apocalyptic project to rebuild computer industry? The technology would not have to be be the best, just has highest chance to survive in useful, modifiable form.

1) Software... for me it seems that the highest chance to survive would have some Linux distribution including Android. All main competitors would have low chance to leave a source code. Presumably also a few closed code programs would survive and be run through some Wine equivalent. (or do I miss something?)

2) Hardware: Processor - some variant of RISC ARM... the most popular architecture, and some of them are even open source hardware. Plus if it is supposed to be simple and ultra high performance, then anyway RISC is presumably the way to go. (the rest of hardware - I have simply no idea. Any idea what has the best chance to leave blueprints... USB? RAM? HDD?)

I asked about Raspberry Pi, because it seems as something simple enough but working as a computer. Nevertheless, maybe there would be something with higher chance to leave blueprints or similar chance but being of higher quality?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you assume that current semiconductor technology is still available? If yes, that is not post-apocalyptic. If not the ARM processor in the Raspberry Pi is not achievable. $\endgroup$ Nov 11, 2016 at 22:07
  • $\begingroup$ BTW, if you have asked on this forum about "redesigning computer from scratch in post-apocalyptic setting" you should add a link to your older question (so please edit this question to improve it). $\endgroup$ Nov 11, 2016 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ @BasileStarynkevitch Do you mean that the apocalypse can get worse than being forced to use Linux? :-P $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Nov 11, 2016 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ You might consider en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluidics . $\endgroup$
    – LSerni
    Nov 11, 2016 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ post-apocalyptic? Is there radiation? However prevalent and how strong? When (how long ago) did the apocalyptic event happen? Are people still engaged in battle? Is it like the Fallout 3/4 video game? $\endgroup$
    – cybernard
    Nov 12, 2016 at 5:21

3 Answers 3


The Raspberry Pi is a pretty fun device, but even if you have stockpiled them in the millions in shelters all around the planet, it is not really going to help you "rebuild" the computer industry.

The Pi itself requires the resources of the entire industrial ecosystem to build, and when you consider the supporting infrastructures including IO devices (keyboards, monitors), power sources (generators, power grids or even batteries) and network connections, either hardwired or not, including routers, network hubs and all the other hardware, you are not going to have the ability to support the existing hardware, much less create any new stuff.

Given the post apocalyptic environment, you would probably be better off scaling your ambitions back to what is possible. The Antikythera mechanism is a highly sophisticated mechanical computer for astronomical calculations which is built out of hand cut gears, which might be the limit for a post apocalyptic society. Of course a mechanical astronomical calculator might be quite useful for calculating when to sow and reap for farmers, and to allow ship's captains and navigators discover their locations, so the practical advantages to recreating devices like that will be a powerful incentive for creative people. (As an aside, people have been recreating the device since its inner workings were accurately revealed using new forms of x-ray technology in the 1990's. There are even YouTube videos devoted to reconstruction of the device:


and in LEGO:


When you master that, you can then work your way up to this:


and finally, the Analytical Engine, perhaps the first general purpose computer:


So electronic computers, and especially microelectronic and integrated circuit devices are simply not going to be part of your post apocalyptic universe after existing ones fail.


At least in the research phase we have materials to record data in that will last without degrading for 1000's of years. If just a handful of these survives in a vault somewhere we are all set on blue prints.


Previous efforts results in media only said to last a laughably short 100,000 yr.


As you have probably assumed, this 10-million-year hard disk (well, it is very hard, and it is a disk) has nothing to do with computers — rather, this is all about passing important messages to future archeologists. Complex storage devices such as flash drives are no good: There’s just no way of guaranteeing that a future human (or alien?) race will be able to decode the data. With the sapphire disk, up to 40,000 miniaturized pages of text or images can be inscribed in the platinum — and all you need to read the data is a microscope, which hopefully future civilizations will still have access to.

Therefore it is entirely possible that all the useful blue prints necessary to build any modern tech could be available. The government and/or scientist probably already have these prepped and ready.

Actually building new from them depends on the available tech, and time frame. Our world took from roughly 1900 to 2016 or 116 yr to go from the early uses of electricity to today. If your willing to wait problem solved.

This presumes you can allocate enough land to build factories,schools, and so forth.

First, you would need to build the machines to extract the minerals from the ground. Then machines to process them. These things take time and an educated population.

The only way to make this go faster is to find any move intact technology to a safe zone. It takes several years to even build a modern fab plant with the modern infrastructure in place.


An intact DEC PDP-11 including its storage devices and the source code of an operating system ( which back then came on microfiche with the computer)

The hardware was simple enough that you could reverse engineer it with a magnifying glass and ohm-meter and an integrated circuit data book. An inspired engineer could probably guess the logic fuctions from the connections and the code. But it was a properly general purpose machine.

IMO this 1970s computer was the seed from which grew everything we use today. It took four decades.

  • $\begingroup$ "IMO this 1970s computer was the seed from which grew everything we use today." This seems to assert that the PDP-11 was created from whole cloth, which most certainly is not true. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 17, 2018 at 0:23
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed, but the point is that it's simple enough that it can be comprehended by an engineer using simple tools. A first-generation PDP-8 would be simpler and an intact Colossus even more so. A VAX 11/780 is more advanced an probably still comprenensible (and it came with circuit diagrams and VMS source fiche). But I felt the PDP-11 would be the best starting point. In evolution every seed is based on a previous seed back to we don't know what any more! $\endgroup$
    – nigel222
    May 17, 2018 at 10:02

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