[rescue] Sun GT (graphics tower) model 347

Janet Campbell janet at foonly.com
Tue May 23 17:39:52 CDT 2006

Home sick, so don't mind the ramble.

On Tue, 23 May 2006, Richard wrote:

> OK, thanks for the pointers to the sunhelp.org for information about
> VME bus based Suns.  Based on that, I figured out a little more about
> the Sun "Graphics Tower" (model 347) that I picked up.  The enclosure
> is a stock Sun 3/110 style VME 3-slot box housing the graphics system.
> One of the slots contains a host interface and the other two the frame
> buffer and graphics processing.

It's not quite a stock VME chassis, there are some cooling differences and 
I thought some additional P2 bus wiring 'twixt slots - we had a prototype 
though, so I'm not sure if things changed.

> However, I can't seem to find any more information on this beast.  I'm
> assuming that there's a VME host interface card of some sort that goes
> into a Sun 3 or 4 style box.  The model sticker has a date of May 1992.

The host interface was an sbus card with a big wide connector on the back 
(looks like a wide SCSI connector, but wider).  An interconnect cable 
(carrying 32-bit(?) differential parallel data) went from the sbus card to 
the GT chassis. It was designed to work with the SS2 and SS10, there's 
support to use it as a console, but I do remember it working with other 
systems - there was code in the GT startup script (microcode load) to 
error out on Galaxy (4/600) systems at one point in time.  I'm not sure if 
they fixed that in the end.

There were driver files only for sun4c and sun4m, and only up to Solaris 
2.4.  It will output 76Hz 1280x1024 video, and if you power it up without 
any host connected, you should get a sequence of test patterns.  You 
need the sbus card and cable to get it to do anything meaningful.

It was s-l-o-w for blitting 2D data, though a couple fast clear planes 
helped with fills.  XGL was the recommend 3D API, and transforms were 
taken care of by an onboard i860XR.  It did T&L acceleration, not 
texturing.  From the man page:


     gt - double buffered 24-bit SBus color frame buffer and graphics 


     gt is a 24-bit SBus-based color frame buffer and graphics accelerator. 
The frame buffer consists of 108 video memory planes of 1280 .1024 pixels 
including 24-bit double buffering, 16 alpha/overlay planes, 24 z-buffer 
planes, 10 window ID planes, 8 fast clear planes, and 2 cursor planes. It 
provides the standard frame buffer interface defined in fbio(7), paired 
with microcode that can be downloaded using gtconfig(1M). Application 
acceleration is achieved via the XGL native 3D graphics library.

I think that TGS(?) had OpenGL almost kind of running on it.  Ford used a 
number of these things for CAD/CAM and had no end of trouble with them - 
they finally scrapped them when the ZX and TZX came out (which were much 
less buggy).  It's an interesting bit of history (and cost something over 
$50k brand new) but it was never a great piece of hardware.

> Any suggestions on where to dig out more information on this guy?

Old Sun FE Handbooks, or old Sun FE's.  ;)


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