[rescue] Sun 3/80 Restoration

David Brownlee abs at absd.org
Sun Oct 6 12:39:40 CDT 2019

On Sat, 5 Oct 2019 at 21:17, Bill Dorsey <dorsey at lila.com> wrote:
> Hi,
> After a number of years of searching, I finally managed to get my hands
> on a working Sun 3/80.B  I have fond memories of the Sun 3 machines from
> my time at Sun Microsystems and the m68k processor family has long been
> a favorite of mine.B  Here's a quick summary of the steps I took to get
> it working again:
> My 3/80 needed a new power supply fan and 48T02 clock calendar chip.B
> Fan replacement was easy and the new fan is much quieter than the old.B
> The 3/80 would not boot with the new 48T02 chip but fortunately several
> websites contained enough details that I was able to get the magic bytes
> programmed into it from the monitor and convince it to boot.B  It came
> with a working SCSI hard drive with SunOS 4.1, so that saved me
> considerable time.B  I bought a SCSI2SD board for it, 3D printed a case
> which mated with the quick-disconnect mount in the chassis, and got it
> formatted in no time.B  Initially I installed NetBSD 8.0 on it though
> after a few days of playing with that, I decided it was much too slow on
> the old machine.B  Logging in with SSH took several minutes and just
> generating the SSH keys took many hours.B  I might go back and try an
> older version of NetBSD someday, but installing SunOS 4.1.1 appealed
> much more to my nostalgia.B  While that proved a bit more challenging
> than I first thought, again thanks to a couple of websites (mentioned
> below) I was able to do it successfully on the third of fourth try
> solely from tape images on disk.
> Finally I had the 3/80 up and running just like it was 30 years ago.B
> After a few weeks of blissful nostalgia spent remember how to configure
> everything, installing useful software packages like gcc and vim, I
> figured it would be fun to see what could be done to the hardware in
> order to sweeten its performance a bit.B  I owned a 3/60 over 30 years
> ago and I remember bumping up the clock speed from 20 to 25 MHz by
> replacing the crystal oscillator, so I wondered if I might be able to do
> the same thing with the 3/80. Long story short, I was successful in
> bumping up the CPU speed from 19.66 MHz to 24.576 MHz, though it
> required hacking the boot rom and patching the kernel before the serial
> ports worked correctly since the CPU clock is shared with the Zilog
> serial chip.B  While the machine is still painfully slow by modern
> standards, it was a satisfying project.B  It has been running 24 hours a
> day now at this speed without any issues.B  I should note that I did
> replace the CPU and FPU with 25 MHz variants and all of my memory is 60
> ns (I got parity errors when I tried 70 ns memory).
> I've managed to find copies of source code for SunOS 4.1.3 and 4.1.4 and
> made a small effort to build them on the 3/80.B  However, it looks like
> the changes are a bit less superficial than I had remembered so it looks
> like it will take a more significant effort.B  In the meantime, if anyone
> can point me to a source for the 4.1.1 source code, I'd appreciate it as
> there are a few small changes I'd like to make the the kernel which
> would go a lot more smoothly if I didn't have to disassemble and patch
> it by hand.
> I just read over the last year or so of postings for the list and see
> that there still appear to be a couple of people here who have Sun 3
> computers in their collection.B  Would be pleased to exchange thoughts
> with anyone still actively using these old machines.
> Here are the two Sun 3 specific websites that saved me a lot of time on
> my restoration:B  sun3arc.org and sun3zoo.de.B  Big thanks to their owners
> for making all that information available online.

The 3/80 is an excellent SunOS 4.1.x platform - best of luck finding
4.1.1_U1 (IIRC) source :)

On the NetBSD front - ssh is a particular issue as it keeps ramping up
the computation effort for keys and connections over time as machines
get faster. You might find it faster with a different ciper - "ssh -Q
cipher" will list the available (or use rsh :-p)

I'm curious how much slower NetBSD would be compared to SunOS 4.1.1 in
general use. Apart from gcc (which seems to be on a holy mission
target memory use as factorial of version number) I would hope
everything would be usable...


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