[rescue] Sun 4/600 firmware found

Nathan Raymond nraymond at gmail.com
Fri Feb 21 16:15:31 CST 2020

On Fri, Feb 21, 2020 at 1:04 PM Adam Sampson <ats at offog.org> wrote:

> Nathan Raymond <nraymond at gmail.com> writes:
> >> "The very first Suns that were delivered ran a version of Unix that
> >> we wrote for them, and for the first year of Sun's existence, this
> >> group was their largest customer," Catmull recalls.
> > Is that true? I've never heard that, and my attempts to corroborate
> > that are coming up short.
> Having had a trawl through the utzoo early Usenet archive, there are a
> few references to a Lucasfilm 68000 UNIX and their use of Sun
> workstations.
> Michael Wahrman on 2nd June 1982:
> | There are at least 5 different versions of UNIX currently running
> | on the 68000 in some sort of workstation configuration.  They are:
> |
> |        i.   UNISOFT version 7
> |        ii.  XENIX version 7
> |        iii. Fortune version 7
> |        vi.  MIT version 7
> |        v.   LUCASFILM version 7

When he says, "some sort of workstation configuration", does he mean that a
customer could work with a workstation vendor to put together a workstation
with their choice of UNIX distribution for that build/order? (I'm too young
to have any first-hand experience with the marketplace back then...)

> B. J. Herbison on 26th July 1982, quoting replies to a previous message:
> | I know Lucasfilms, (the Star Wars Company!) has brought a 68000 Unix,
> | but isn't supporting it; they should be listed in the Marin County
> | (area code 415) phone book.
> [...]
> | UNIX on 68K... originally done at MIT, available from LUCASFILM, (on a
> | SUN MULTI-bus system), WICAT on their own 68K system, Microsoft
> | (XENIX) on a QBUS 68K board--soon on other processors, Fortune on
> | their own system (proprietary bus), plus a few more in progress...
> Henry Spencer on 28th February 1983:
> | To give credit where it is due: as far as I know, the first person to
> | realize the Unix performance implications of shared disk servers (as
> | opposed to the general usefulness of local disks for performance) was
> | Tom Duff of Lucasfilm's computer graphics lab.  His prediction has
> | been confirmed there, and they are now planning to put a local disk on
> | each of their SUNs for exactly this reason.  Tom recently lost the
> | local disk on his SUN temporarily, and says that the loss in
> | performance is considerable.
> mis at Berkeley on 18th April 1983:
> | Title: Emacs on 68000's
> | yes, we have it running here on suns and valids, and Valid/Lucasfilm
> | Unix is similar enough to Unisoft.

Lucasfilm had a few projects that used the first Sun workstations, and Ed
Catmull was involved with some of them... I wonder if Catmull got confused?
According to Wikipedia, Sun UNIX 0.7 came out in 1982 and was UniSoft UNIX
v7, "Bundled with 68000-based Sun-1 system. No windowing system." According
to the Sun-1 page:


The Sun-1 systems ran SunOS 0.9, a port of UniSoft's UniPlus V7 port of
> Seventh Edition UNIX to the Motorola 68000 microprocessor, with no window
> system.

The page also mentions this:

The Sun-1/100 was used in the original Lucasfilm EditDroid non-linear
> editing system.

So maybe Lucasfilm had an in-house version of UNIX they were using on the
Sun-1 systems they were using with their projects?

Oddly there is no mention of SunOS 0.9 on the SunOS wikipedia page:


It starts with SunOS 1.0, released in 1983. Digging around, I found this


The page was archived from somewhere else, and looks like a work in
progress that was never finished, with lots of broken links. There are
several mentions of Lucasfilm:

1980: Andy Bechtolsheim starts licensing Sun board for $10k [cite] 6 or 7
> sales in 1981; 1st is Codata (ports Lucasfilms/Sprocket Unix and UniSoft)
> [cite]

 1982: 22Feb: Sun incorporated [cite]
> no-date: Scott McNealy moves to Sun from Oryx [cite]
> no-date: Sun hires UniSoft to create 'stopgap' Unix [cite] adds MS Xenix,
> Lucasfilm Unix
> Codata is a $3M Sunnyvale company selling standalone UNIX systems based on
> the SUN 68000 board. They have no license to other parts of the system.
> Forward Technology is a startup Santa Clara company currently selling the
> SUN 68000 board and the graphics board, but intending to move into the
> workstation marketplace.
> Pacific Microcomputer is a very small San Diego company selling the SUN
> 68000 board

 1982: Jun: Unix-lookalikes for 68000: [net.unix-wizards]
>     UniSoft v7 (Jeff Schriebman; includes BSD improvements)
>     Xenix 2.2 v7 (Microsoft, no BSD code)
>     Fortune v7 (ditto MicroDaSys, Dual)
>     MIT v7 (ditto Stanford, SMI, Cadlink)
>     Lucasfilm v7 [1981?]
>     Whitesmith's Idris
>     Alcyon
>     Wicat v7 w/MCS kernel
>     Charles River Data Systems UNOS
>     Mark Williams' Coherent (incomplete)
>     [most of these use Xenix or UniSoft]

 Tapping into the book "Apple Confidential 2.0" by Owen Linzmayer, the
chapter "The Pixar Phenomenon" has some useful info:

    Like Apple, the story of Pixar starts in a garage in the mid 1970s with
> two young men sharing a passion. As a child, Edwin E. Catmull wanted to be
> an animator for Walt Disney, but he realized that he lacked the necessary
> artistic skills. He went into computer graphics instead, and eventually
> wound up at the impressive-sounding New York Institute of Technology
> (NYIT), a vocational school where he worked in the Computer Graphics
> Laboratory out of a renovated four-car garage on a large estate. It was in
> Old Westbury on Long Island in 1975 that Catmull met the man who would
> become his partner in Pixar a decade later, Alvy Ray Smith (
> www.alvyray.com).
>     At bNew York Tech,b Catmull and Smith worked for an eccentric
> multimillionaire by the name of Alexander Schure. Even with a rich
> benefactor and the freedom to experiment with cutting-edge computer
> graphics routines and equipment, their dream of producing a computer-
> generated animated feature film was a long way from reality. Nonetheless,
> every year the two made a pilgrimage to Disney to gauge its interest in
> tackling the task, and every year they were turned down. The two knew that
> as chips become ever more powerful and less expensive, it was only a matter
> of time before an animated feature was financially feasible. In the
> meantime, theybd have to keep themselves happy laying the groundwork
> necessary to fulfill their vision.
>     Around the time Catmull and Smith joined forces, motion picture
> director George Walton Lucas Jr. established Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)
> in Northern California to produce special effects for Star Wars. Back then,
> the state-of-the-art in special effects required detailed scale models,
> computer-controlled cameras, and hand-painted individual frames of film.
> Looking to automate the tedious ILM work and revolutionize the way motion
> pictures were made, Lucas set up a computer division of Lucasfilm Ltd. In
> 1979, Lucas hired Catmull as the director of the division, who in turn
> hired Smith as director of computer graphics. The two thought they were
> going to get a chance to create special effects using computer graphics,
> but Lucasb vision wasnbt that farsighted. He wanted them to design and
> build digital versions of the traditional tools of filmmaking: an audio
> synthesizer, video editor, and optical printer.
>     Smith took employees Loren Carpenter and Rodney Stock to a burger
> joint in Ignacio for a brainstorming session to name their optical printer
> project. Smith recalls, bI set the stage by suggesting that I would like
> name like blaserb that was a noun but looked like a verb, explaining
that I
> grew up in New Mexico, surrounded by Spanish and that Spanish verbs all end
> in -ir, -er, or -ar. I suggested, for example, bpixer,b meaning to make
> pictures, but to be used as a noun.b One of Smithbs companions pointed
> that bradarb had a very high-tech feel to it and suggested bpixar.b
> thought that worked just fine because -ar was also a verb ending. Their
> project now had a name: Pixar.
>     While they worked on building the machines Lucas requested, Smith and
> Catmull also assembled a dream team of top computer graphics researchers
> and scientists in their division of Lucasfilm. But a few weeks before the
> May 25, 1983, release of Return of the Jedi, they got a wake-up call when
> George and Marcia Lou Lucas (neLe Griffin) announced their intention to
> divorce after 14 years of marriage. Under California law, each was entitled
> to half of the combined marital assets. George wanted to retain his various
> movie-making interests and Marcia was willing to settle for cash, which
> meant that he had to come up with an estimated $35 to $50 million.
>     Catmull and Smith feared that Lucas would split up or close their
> division. The two proposed that Lucas spin them out as a separate company
> (the audio and editing machines were eventually spun off into a company
> called Droid Works). Hungry for cash and not appreciating the many
> revolutionary ways their work on computer graphics could be applied to
> filmmaking, Lucas agreed. From NYIT to Lucasfilm, Catmull and Smith had
> gone from one wealthy patron to another, and now they hoped they could find
> a third.
>     Two years passed, and the computer division was still on the block
> with Lucasfilm asking $30 million, an amount Smith thought bincredibly
> high.b In April 1985, the computer divisionbnow named Pixarbunveiled
> Pixar Image Computer (PIC), a prototype of the digital optical printer.
> Able to process graphics at a speed of 40 million instructions per second,
> the bcomputerb was really a special-purpose, pixel-based graphics
> that had to be integrated into a host system such as a DEC or Sun
> Microsystems workstation. The PICbs four processors could work
> simultaneously on the red, green, blue, and transparency of a single pixel,
> creating stunningly realistic images.

Not much mention of Sun here except as one of the workstation vendors
needed to provide the hardware to fully utilize a Pixar production
workflow, and lacking in technical details on what Lucasfilm ran in-house.
Peter Langston was hired in 1982 by the Lucasfilm Computer Division to
start Lucasfilm Games, and wrote a paper for the Spring 1985 European UNIX
User's Group meeting called "The Influence of the UNIX Operating System on
the Development of Two Video Games" which has some random details of how
they operated internally around this time:


Maybe I'll reach out to Peter Langston and see if he has any memories of
the Lucasfilm UNIX and can corroborate Ed Catmull's old comments regarding

- Nate

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