Relive The Glory Days Of Sun Workstations

When the IBM PC first came out, it was little more than a toy. The serious people had Sun or Apollo workstations. These ran Unix, and had nice (for the day) displays and network connections. They were also expensive, especially considering what you got. But now, QEMM can let you relive the glory days of the old Sun workstations by booting SunOS 4 (AKA Solaris 1.1.2) on your PC today. [John Millikin] shows you how in step-by-step detail.

There’s little doubt your PC has enough power to pull it off. The SUN-3 introduced in 1985 might have 8MB or 16MB of RAM and a 16.67 MHz CPU. In 1985, an 3/75 (which, admittedly, had a Motorola CPU and not a SPARC CPU) with 4MB of RAM and a monochrome monitor cost almost $16,000, and that didn’t include software or the network adapter. You’d need that network adapter to boot off the network, too, unless you sprung another $6,000 for a 71 MB disk.  The SPARCstation 1 showed up around 1989 and ran from $9,000 to $20,000, depending on what you needed.

[John] points out that, unlike a modern PC, SunOS ran on very tightly-controlled hardware, so it is pretty fussy about some things being just right. Apparently, QEMM could not boot the OS without some workarounds until recently, but the setup [John] outlines seems straightforward.

In its heyday, the machine would get network configuration from a RARP and NIS server, but those have long given way to more modern standards like DHCP. Not to worry, you can manually configure the networking. Of course, back in the 80s, a web browser wasn’t really a thing, so you won’t find one bundled by default. [John] shows how to put Netscape Communicator on the machine. You can also bridge to your existing X desktop, if you like.

Sun would go on to build Java and computers to run Java, but Oracle ultimately gobbled them up. If you want to read more about SPARC, it has a long and checkered history. If you don’t have time to set all this up and you just want to see someone do it on the real hardware, check out the video below.

Luis Robinson

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