Starting a documentation and file collection project for the Sun-1

For a few months now, I’ve been interested in Sun workstations, and when you seriously (or even not so seriously) get into a hobby, you sometimes start looking into its history. While looking into Sun’s history, I’ve found that information on the early Sun workstations (that is, those before the Sun-2 line) is extremely scarce, and scattered across the Internet. While I was able to find what I was looking for at the time, even a few months later, I’ve lost some of those links. Therefore, I decided to start an archive for information about the Sun-1 and its predecessors, and for files for those machines. It’s currently hosted off of my own personal server, although mirrors would be appreciated. If you wish to contribute to this project, either by providing information, files, or providing a mirror, please let me know. Here’s the information I’m looking for:

  • Any documents published by Stanford University about the Stanford University Network hardware
  • Any documents published by VLSI Systems about the SUN hardware sold by that company
  • Any documents published by Sun Microsystems about Sun-1 workstation models with 68000 (not 68010) CPUs
  • Any documents published by third parties about the above systems, or hardware included in these systems
  • Firmware for any of these systems
  • Software for any of these systems, especially UniPlus V7 Unix
  • High-resolution images of circuit boards, including:
    • SUN and Sun-1 68000 CPU boards
    • SUN and Sun-1 framebuffers, both monochrome and color
    • SUN and Sun-1 memory boards
    • Disk controller boards used in SUN and Sun-1 systems, including the Interphase SMD 2180
    • Ethernet boards used in SUN and Sun-1 systems
    • Any other boards of interest for the SUN and Sun-1
  • Screenshots and photographs of SUN and Sun-1 systems in operation
  • Personal accounts of using SUN and Sun-1 systems

The SPARCs are flying…

This is probably the fault of a few in the A2Central IRC channel, but I’ve gotten into Sun stuff, it seems.

First, it started with a Sun Ultra 1E, that I named sparcgap, that I got for $20. 200 MHz UltraSPARC, Creator3D graphics, 832 MiB of RAM, and 59 GB of hard drive space (although the 50 gig drive was half height. Protip: Half height means “as thick as an optical drive,” not “normal height for a hard drive.” This meant that the 9 gig drive barely fit, with no airflow between the drives, so I removed the 9 gig.) I installed Solaris 9 on it, but haven’t done much with it. It provides some additional heat for my apartment, and it occasionally gets used to play streaming radio.

Then, recently, I visited a friend of mine, Jeri Ellsworth, to hack on some pinballs, and hang out. She ended up giving me an RDI PowerLite 50. Unfortunately, a previous owner had raided it for the LCD cable (and the RAM upgrade board, and the battery, and this, and that…,) but I got it up and running on an external monitor. It’s got a 50 MHz microSPARC, 16 MiB RAM, a 640×480 LCD, and two 525 MiB hard drives. It’s roughly equivalent to a SPARCclassic. I installed Solaris 2.5.1 on it, named it leydenjar (an early capacitor, which… is a way to store a spark and take it with you. This laptop is an early way to take a SPARC with you. I know, terrible,) and for the lulz, decided to install Internet Explorer 5 for UNIX. Bad idea. Well, Internet Explorer is almost always a bad idea, but I mean, this was a really bad idea. See, IE 5 isn’t set up to work well in 16 megs of RAM on Solaris. 😉 But, this machine’s getting restored soon, and part of that will be to add more RAM, hopefully.

Anyway, then, I stumbled on a thread over on Nekochan. In that thread was a link to an auction for some Sun Blade 2500s. $170 and free shipping, for a dual 1.6 GHz UltraSPARC IIIi with 2 GiB of RAM? Sign me up!

Not sure what graphics card mine has yet, and there’s no hard drive (although I bought a 73 GB SCSI drive for it, and have a spare drive caddy if it’s needed.) I intend to run OpenSolaris on it, so the lowest-end XVR-100 is actually the best bet for compatibility.

I’ll be naming the machine brescia. Brescia, Italy was the site of what’s believed to be the worst lightning disaster in recorded history, when in 1769, lightning struck the Church of Saint Nazaire. This wouldn’t have been that huge of a deal, except for the little fact that 100 pounds of gunpowder were stored in said church. 3000 people died, and 1/6th of the city was levelled. So, it was the spark that did the most damage… well, a machine with a dual 1.6 GHz UltraSPARC IIIi is the SPARC workstation that does the most processing. (You can tell, my SPARC boxes get TERRIBLE names. :lol:)

Of course, I’ve installed OpenSolaris on my (Acer Aspire One D250) netbook, too. Got some power management issues, and some printing issues, but otherwise like it so far, with one exception – why, exactly, is pfexec not passworded? I get the reason for having pfexec, it makes perfect sense… but I think not having passwords on it greatly reduces its security, and therefore its usefulness.

Oh noes, moar computers, and amateur radio!

So, let’s start with the computer stuff…

I managed to get an Acorn RiscPC. For those not familiar with the machine, it’s an ARM-based machine running RISC OS (a cooperative multitasking ROM-based GUI OS originally developed by Acorn.) My particular machine has a 233 MHz DEC StrongARM, 96 MiB of EDO RAM, 2 MiB of VRAM, an ethernet card, and a DMA IDE card (faster than the on-board IDE, and more compatible.) I’m currently running it with a 4 GiB CompactFlash card for storage.

It’s amazingly useful, despite the fact that this CPU came out in 1997. Word processing, e-mail, all that. Hell, even web browsing – it’s not great, but it works, with NetSurf. There’s also a Firefox port, but it’s uselessly slow, unfortunately – Firefox bloat plus a twelve year old processor equals dog slow.

Oh, and with a program called Murnong, it’s actually possible to watch YouTube videos. Of course, it takes almost half an hour to convert a 5 minute video to be playable.  😆

But, it’s still a quite interesting platform to use… best bet is to read the Wakefield RISC OS Computer Club’s introduction to RISC OS.

Now, what else is there to talk about… oh, yeah, amateur radio. So, I was at Notacon 6, and they had amateur radio exams. Decided to go for my license, and now have a Technician class license. (Next year, I’ll probably go for General, but I hadn’t studied for it this year.) KD8KXK is on the air.  😀

I think that’s all for now…

More retrocomputing stuff!

So, I’ve been messing around with my IIGS some more lately.

First, I got it running as a web server, using a serial connection to my server. Great. But, the fastest connection I could get that was stable was 38400 baud. Eww.

I might’ve blogged a while back about the problems the motherboard had, that it couldn’t accept any expansion cards. Long story short, I had gotten an a2RetroSystems Uther ethernet card for it, and tried it… and nothing. It wouldn’t connect. Tried everything, even tried a diagnostic software disk image that a2RetroSystems sent me, and it wouldn’t init the card.

After doing a bunch of diagnostics on the machine… I figured it out. The damned motherboard was fucked. 😡

Anyway, yesterday, a new IIGS (that was actually a year older) arrived. It had a dead power supply, but I had a good one in my old IIGS… and this machine works perfectly. 😀

Interestingly, the video signal is clearer and stronger on this one, too. Not sure what that’s about, but I’m sure as hell not complaining.

So, the IIGS is now online, with an ethernet card. Still is using floppies as the only storage, though.

It is accessible at in its current state, however.

But, that’ll eventually be remedied. I’m going to get a Focus IDE controller from 16 Sector (and I’ve already got a CF to 44-pin IDE adapter on the way, and I’ll be getting a 1 GiB CF card soon,) and some form of 4 MiB RAM card.

Then, I think, except for an accelerator, this system will be complete. 🙂 (And I may never get an accelerator, because they go for stupid money used…)

My crazy opinion on computers and education

I should probably state my qualifications before I begin this post… I work as the computer technician for a K-12 private school. I don’t work directly with the students, but I DO work with the teachers in implementing their educational needs on our computers. Also, it wasn’t that long ago that I was a student myself.

I personally feel that modern computers are the wrong approach for educating our students. Continue reading “My crazy opinion on computers and education”

I am such a nerd.

That’s my cell phone running the Apple ][ version of Lemonade Stand.

Yes. My cell phone. Running an Apple ][ app.



Pretty easy to use… download, extract, put disk images in the Disks directory, and (on Windows or Mac) run the relevant script, or enter the following command on Linux (taken RIGHT from the Windows CMD file, just with proper slashes instead of backslashes, and cp instead of copy ;)):

java -jar Tools/AppleIIGoPacker.jar
cp AppleIIGo/bin/AppleIIGo.jad AppleIIGo/AppleIIGo.jad

That cp operation isn’t necessary if you use Sprint – and if you do use Sprint, upload it to your phone using Rumkin’s Phone Uploader. (Upload the AppleIIGo.jar (not the jad) file from the AppleIIGo directory.)