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Newbie looking to get into vintage unix workstations, requesting advice.

lowen

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The Sun 2/50 would certainly be in the running for slowest...anything. It's a, what, 16MHz?
While I reserve the right to be wrong as always, my money for slowest would be VAX 11/725 or MicroVAX I. But a 16MHz 68010 (did they go that high? The 68000 did, but the fastest '010 I've seen is 12 MHz) is likely to be faster, if dhrystone is any indication. The Byte unixbench suite would give a reasonable result.

EDIT: 2/50 is documented as 10 MHz. Sunhelp Document. (but it's not supported by NetBSD/sun2, apparently....)
 
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commodorejohn

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According to the official page, the Sun 2/50 isn't supported, although I don't know if that was always true. It does support the HP 9000/300 series with 16MHz 68020, though even that would be meaningfully more performant than anything 68010-based.
 

lowen

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This discussion also lays out the basic 'enjoyment factors' if you will of vintage Unix.

If it's more about the software; that's easily accomplished with emulators these days. Whether it's OpenSIMH or trs80gp (for the Tandy 6000 Xenix experience) or whatever emulator, you can get the vintage software experience easily. With vintage-look terminal software like CoolRetroTerm you really can get the vintage feel on modern hardware:
Screenshot from 2022-06-24 09-25-52.png

Then there are those who are running modern software on vintage hardware; NetBSD on Sun2 or VAXen or other old boxen. This is also the thrust behind the whole Fuzix project, too, with a modern-ish Unix-ish system running on old primarily 8-bit hardware. This is seriously cool, too, and is better covered on forums like RetroBrew Computers.

Combining the two, joining running old hardware, such as a 3B1, with its original software, as un-modern as it is, gives the full experience, and it can be a fun project, too. It just depends on how 'fun' the hardware really is, and how much you enjoy tinkering with old hardware and permanently buggy software.

Heh, honestly, part of the reason I not only don't mind but actually enjoy a shell command line (regardless of underlying Unix or Unix-ish system, whether Linux or *BSD or even macOS) is that I can get my 'vintage fix' any time.
 
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TWAIN

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Via Net/2 and the various 4.3 flavors as I recall. There's a family tree at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Unix_history-simple.svg

Hmm, I know I previously mentioned the 3B1 in post #42.... These days I would probably prefer a mightyframe or a 3B2 of some sort. If I had power and space a 3B15 would make a nice space heater.....
For old-school terminal UNIX, the 3B2 series is fun to mess with. I supported a large office with a 3B2/1000 and several 3B2/600s and smaller series back in the day. I had a pile of 3B2/300s and 400s several years ago that I got rid of…really wished I had those back. They were truly tanks.
 

jfloren

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For old-school terminal UNIX, the 3B2 series is fun to mess with. I supported a large office with a 3B2/1000 and several 3B2/600s and smaller series back in the day. I had a pile of 3B2/300s and 400s several years ago that I got rid of…really wished I had those back. They were truly tanks.

A 3B2 machine and a DMD 5620 == basically my #1 vintage hardware collection desire right now. Unfortunately the latter appears to be very hard to find.
 

mikesmith

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Aug 26, 2022
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A bit late to the party, but in case it's worth anything... I just picked up an HP 9000/382 with 20M/525M off eBay for $240 shipped. This is a 25MHz '040 that will run HP/UX up to 9.x as well as Linux or NetBSD (also HP Basic, or Pascal). These tend to go for a bit more, but if you're patient they're still out there. Sadly this is a "medium resolution" model, or I'd have been tempted to buy a keyboard and mouse to go with it...
 

shirsch

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I don’t want to “yuck anyone’s yum” by relating the following, but maybe it’s worth chucking out this cautionary note: back in the early 2000‘s I ended up with a small collection of old workstations, including some Sun boxes and an SGI Indy, because they were literally free for the taking and I was stoked to actually get a chance to own a ‘real’ UNIX computer instead of just a free UNIX clone running on a boring PC. And, frankly… it pretty thoroughly put me off bothering with these things. I mean, there’s only so many times you can fire up ‘fsn’ and deadpan “It’s a UNIX system!” before the novelty wears off. An Indy with Irix was undoubtedly amazing in 1993, but in 2001 it felt old, slow, and clunky compared to any rotgut Celeron PC running Linux and getting any software for it was a huge PITA.

So… I dunno, maybe that old line about never meeting your heroes might apply to these things.

(That said, I still have a little bit of a soft spot for the Suns because they were *very* well supported by free OSes and they have some really great features, like being incredibly easy to NetBoot. If you have Sun peripherals already lying around slapping a basic Sparcstation in the middle and setting it up as a retro X-terminal would be an educational weekend.)
I lived through the same arc here. At one point I had an IBM RT, Power 320 (I think that's what it was), SGI Indigo, UltraSparc 60, HP something-or-other, pile of pizza box Suns and an Alpha or three. Still have a Sparc 2 and Ultra 2 but gave away the rest about 7-8 years ago. Was taking up way too much space and I really wasn't using them for anything.
 

stefan-lokeldarn

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You get essentially the same system with the 3B1; 68010-based, up to 3.5MB of RAM. 3B1 is quite a bit smaller, and no need for an extra terminal on the desk.

As far as multibus goes, I have a three Proteon routers here that are multibus and 68020 processors; would love a NetBSD on those....
The Sun 2/120 will go to 7 MB with a bit of hack, my own has 4 MB (which was supported.)
 

evan1

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Apr 14, 2022
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I don't know exactly what goes on under the hood, but Suns of at least back to SPARCStation 2 vintage are kinda middle-tier in terms of how picky monitors get with them. It's not like, say, the VAXstations where you'll need a monitor that can handle full-on sync-on-green output, nor does it have problems with green tinting on monitors that don't know how to separate out the sync like some SGIs do. On the other hand, my SS2 does still have issues with the cheapest and commonest of my LCD displays - but I think it's more a matter of the onboard controller not knowing what to do with an uncommon resolution like 1152x900; a slightly less cheap monitor of comparable vintage handles it just fine.
I've found that a Dell 1909 4:3 monitor works great with all my unix boxes. I have several suns of the sparcstation variety, a NeXTstation and an Octane, and that monitor has worked with all of them.
 

pkhoury

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32 bit Sun Sparcstations need proprietary keyboards/mice and adapters to work on normal monitors, but they at least used to be about the cheapest entry level UNIX workstation and the easiest to find. (The Sparcstation IPX, IPC, 4, 5, 10, and 20 were all sold in relatively huge numbers compared to most workstations.) They also run a fairly broad assortment of alternative OSes, the exact choices depending on the model or hardware config.

Of course, this is me remembering 20 years ago when it was pretty easy to find someone willing to pay you to haul one off, no idea what the market is now. I also think a lot of them still around will need TLC to get going. (I recall several of the most common models used those annoying Dallas clock chips with the built-in battery, those will all be dead by now.)
I'm really late replying (and haven't looked through the whole thread), but that being said - IMHO, Sun 4c/4m is probably the easiest UNIX workstation to get into. Sure, the keyboards are proprietary, but you should have NO trouble getting a Sun 4 or 5C keyboard and mouse. I personally prefer the 5C, though I never liked how the keys felt (I'm an IBM Model M snob). Don't forget about the Sun 1, 1+ and 2. I think those were sold in relatively high numbers. My firsts were an IPC and a 2. Don't have those I originally had, but do have a 1, 1+, several 2's, an Ultra 2 that I still use to service other machines, and I collect Sun 2's and 3's.

SPARCs are pretty easy though. Like I said, the keyboards are plentiful. All you really need to connect a modern LCD to a Sun color framebuffer is a 13W3 to VGA adapter and a monitor that supports sync-on-green. I'm very partial to NEC Multisyncs (not all support SOG but it's easy to find out if they do by looking up the model number and looking at the specs from NEC). I also understand a lot of Dell LCDs support SOG.

I would say that the Sun4c (SS1, 1+, 2, IPC, IPX) would be the easiest to get started on. I think the IPX uses normal 72 pin parity SIMMS, and I know you can use regular 9 chip parity SIMMS with the 1, 1+, 2, and IPC, either 1MB or 4MB capacities. All by default output console to serial port A at 9600, 8, N, 1, and IDPROM batteries can be hacked to solder replacement batteries/battery holders, or I think you can get a replacement battery. I know Sun 4m systems like the 10 and 20 are a bit more difficult. Proprietary memory, sometimes CPU modules don't get work, and don't get me started with how hot the SS20 will get. I have one with quad Ross HyperSPARCs and it gets HOT HOT HOT!
 
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