[rescue] newest rescue

Dave McGuire mcguire at neurotica.com
Tue Feb 2 17:04:52 CST 2016

On 02/02/2016 05:19 PM, Nathan Raymond wrote:
> So here I guess I show my (relative) youth, having never used a 680x0 Sun
> workstation (just SPARC stuff), what's the draw, exactly?

  Many things, and some are different from person to person.

  For my own self, I and some friends built (what was) one of the
country's first and largest ISPs with that hardware and software, and we
know just how truly good the stuff is.

  The Sun 68K machines were screaming fast for the time; much faster
than most anything else that was out there.  The 3/400 processor in
particular was an amazing workhorse; a 40MHz 68030 with a 68881 (or
68882) FPU, and a very good bus, with an excellent and well-thought-out
systems-level architecture.

> At that time I
> was excited by the Mac IIfx and AU/X and the NeXT computers, both of which
> struck me as advanced machines from a VLSI design perspective. From the
> photos I've seen of Sun 680x0 workstations, their motherboards have what
> look like an insane number of chips (surely not 74-series logic?) which at
> first blush looks primitive to me. What am I missing? Or is it the software
> they ran in that era?

  No, not much 7400-series stuff at all on those boards.  Lots and lots
of PALs, FIFOs, bus transceivers, etc.  There were also cache
controllers, MMUs, etc on most of them.

  Keep in mind the "motherboards" you're talking about aren't just
workstation boards, they are processor boards around which we built very
large systems.  This is true for everything except the 3/50 and 3/60
boards, which were effectively standalone machines.  Bus arbitration,
caching, etc takes up quite a lot of logic on a bus as complex and
powerful as VME.

  Yes, the software (SunOS, based on 4.1C BSD) was very good, and rock
solid, but that was just the icing on the cake.  Most all the software
floating around built fine and ran great under that OS.  It effectively
ruled the early stages of the publicly-accessible Internet.

  A 3/200 CPU (33MHz 68020) with 32MB of RAM running SunOS 4.1.1_U1
could support thirty busy users all day long.


Dave McGuire, AK4HZ
New Kensington, PA

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