Friday, May 21, 2021

Public Domain Books to Restart Computer Technology

CollapseOS is a project to make an operating system and tools that can help restart technology after a civilization collapse:

Of course, the software is only part restarting computer technology.  The other part is building things like transistors or vacuum tubes and turning those into computers. 

If you only had one book to take back, I would recommend Understanding Digital Computers by Paul Siegel, which includes overviews of how transistors, vacuum tube, magnetic core memory and other things work. It shows how to make memory and logic gates from these, and how to put them together into a full computer. And more importantly the 1961 edition of this book does not seem to have the copyright renewed (checked at Stanford and LOC) so it is public domain and available at:

Of course, you might want more detail if you have to recreate computers, since manufacturing something with feature size smaller than a millimeter and control of the composition at better than parts per million. So I made a list of books that I believe are public domain (either because they were written by the government or because they are US books publish 1963 or before and the copyright was not renewed). This list includes ones with much more detail on transistors, vacuum tubes, magnetic core memory and also basic materials and science information that can be useful.

General Computer Information:

Numbers with Computers:


Vacuum Tubes:

Alternative Computer Construction:

Basic Science:


This list is unfortunately missing the technology that made computers cheap in the 1970s: mask produced integrated circuits using complementary metal oxide semiconductors (CMOS), since that was just starting to be developed in 1964 when copyright still applies. (Transistor Technology Volume II chapter 9 discusses field effect transistors and Transistor Technology Volume III chapter 5 discusses photo engraving which are precursors technologies.)

Never the less, having a paper copy of these books would help you greatly should you ever wish to restart computer technology after a civilization collapse.

Update (2021-October-1): 

Additional public domain books and papers.

CMOS article:

Printing and Engraving (Similar techniques to photo-lithography for integrated circuits):

Transistor engineering and physics:

Logic design:

More Math:

Integrated Circuits:

Dictionary of Applied Physics
(From the 1920s, but comprehensive):

P.S. TM11-690 is also at


  1. Replies
    1. I agree. They are not public domain, but CDW3D has quite a few things on agriculture.

  2. Some non-public domain books that I think are handy to have around for after a civilization collapse:

    Where There Is No Doctor: Paper Copy and Chapter PDFs

    Feynman Lectures on Physics: Paper copies: V1 and V2 and V3 and Online Edition

    Rationality from AI to Zombies or

  3. If you are trying to restart computer technology, for 8-bit computer architecture, besides obvious choices like z80 and 6502, I recommend considering the PIC architecture, such as in the PIC16F84

    As soon as there is more than 64 KB of RAM, I recommend implementing the RISC-V architecture (Specifically RV32EC and possibly M and A).

    RISC-V has been implemented in hardware using discrete components in the Pineapple ONE project

    For programming languages, two small ones that have been used are Snek (runs on an ATMega 328) and SectorLisp (436 bytes of 8086 assembly)