Dumpster Diving

From: J. Maynard Gelinas <maynard_at_jmg.com>
Date: Sun Jun 22 09:16:12 1997

        [followup scattered throughout text]

On Sun, 22 Jun 1997, Paul E Coad wrote:

> On Sun, 22 Jun 1997, J. Maynard Gelinas wrote:


> >
> > can be had as cheap as $70 bucks base. I know this isn't really on topic
> > for people looking for 4 and 8 bit computers, but you have to admit these
> > kinds of prices are significant considering what this box will do. Where
> > I work has several Sparc 1s and IPC/IPX's floating around still in
> > production. Most of them are bootp servers, X-Terms, or snmp log
> > grabbers. It's amazing that a computer that old is still so useful.
> >
> Hey this is on topic! I like the 4 and 8 bit stuff, but I really like
> Sun machines.

        Sun hardware was damn sturdy. Their later servers - such as the
current E3000 and E4000's I don't think are really as tough as something
like one of the old 3/280's.... Man those things are tough and still in
production in rare situations. We have a 3/60 in production just to gdb
code because our 680x0 cross development/emulation platform doesn't handle
debuggers terribly well.

> Does anyone have a timeline for Sun machines and OS's?
        No, but I think you might want to check the Sun Hardware Reference
FAQ available at:


        This contains good information about what's *indide* those old
boxes, and from that you can extrapolate pretty well about what time it
was released. It also has some quality system release dates, but is not a
complete reference for such things.

> IPC bases have been going around here $99 from dealers. Over the last
> 6 months the prices of sparc machines has dropped by 30-40%. Sun 3
> systems can be had for prices which even I am willing to pay. It is
> amazing to me that there are still so many around since they could
> be used for trade-ins on Sparcs. The story I heard was that they
> were ground up and recycled. This may be folklore.
        A sparc 1 or Sun 3 base is about the same price around here. I
found a sparc 1 with an HM-4119 (Hitachi tube 19" color monitor), a dual
sbus cgsix, two 110mb drives (one of which was trashed by the famed
spindle lube gone - no spin up - problem), type 5 keyboard and optical
mouse, AUI to 10BaseT adapter, and 4MB RAM (that needed upgrading); the
price $100. What it lacked: a 13w3 to 4BNC cable (I obtained a 13w3 - >
4BNC adapter thingy for $20, because an original cable would have cost me
$120.00 and 13w3 to 13w3 cables are *everywhere*.

> There are a lot of uses for older machines. Until about a month ago
> one guy in my office was still using a 3/60 for occasional work. Sure,
> it was mainly used as an xterm, but it worked. Over 10 years old and
> still in service. Anoter guy is using an IPX in the same way.
        These things make *great* X-Terminals, especially since they are
very cheap, and the architecture is well known. You can find tiny X +
system kernels for rarp booting 3/60s if you want to go diskless, or stick
a cheap old boot disk on the thing. The Sparc 1s out there are even more
useful since they will run modern software - albeit slowly. I figure you
can get a functional X-Terminal for around $300 on average... at this
price you could put together a small office with a large Linux server and
ten X-Terminals running StarOffice or ApplixWare... cost? Software
included, easily under five to seven grand.

        I have yet to find a single small office interested in this type
of setup, however. Since I don't make my living trying to sell this
stuff, well, that's no skin off my back. But I tell my friends with small
businesses, and those I wind up meeting at parties, or in Harvard Square,
attempting to set up cheap youth compute centers what a Linux box and
X-Terminals can do and how much it will cost. Few believe me. Oh well!
     / \

    J. Maynard Gelinas
Received on Sun Jun 22 1997 - 09:16:12 BST

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