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John Dunn has worked with computers for nearly 25 years. During that time, he has amassed a substantial and eclectic collection of machines, which started with a Xerox CP/M based system. Despite owning a string of PC clones, John’s numerous SPARCstations hold a special place in his collection. This gallery showcases the 17 Sun Microsystems computers that John owns.
The first of Sun’s “pizza boxes,” this was my first SPARCstation. I purchased it in 1990 for slightly more than a decent compact car. If you look around on eBay you might find a similar machine today for about $15. Nevertheless, this was a great machine and served me well until 1996 when it was retired to the old Sun shelf in my basement crawlspace.
Only modestly faster than the SPARCstation 1 the SPARCstation 1+ wasn’t really groundbreaking. I purchased this one used for $100, “just to have”.
I bought the SPARCstation 2 as an upgrade from the SPARCstation 1 in 1996. I quickly realized I needed more CPU and upgraded again to a SPARCstation 10 with dual SM61 processors. Very cool machine in its day.
The SPARCstation Classic was one of many “cigar box” models. Before the advent of inexpensive home routers, this model made a great firewall using ipfilter. This was my first firewall but was retired in 2000 when hardware routers dropped below $200. Now I use a wireless gateway from SMC for my cable and a gateway router from Netgear for my ADSL high speed phone link.
The ClassicX as another “cigar box” model that was intended for use as an inexpensive X terminal. Basically just a brain-damaged Classic, it’s pretty easy to hack the eprom to restore operation as a normal classic. Purchased use for $15, it’s another “just to have”.
The IPC was too slow for anything useful and this one is another machine “from the crawlspace”. I used machines like this a lot when I worked for Interleaf, a truly cool company with great technical talent but little marketing savvy. Interleaf was bought out by BroadVision, a not very cool company with great marketing talent and little technical savvy.
The SPARCstation IPX was basically a SPARCstation 2 in a cigar box, this was a very portable little powerhouse in its day.
The SPARCstation LX is nearly identical to the Classic with the exception of integrated ISDN capabilities. ISDN has pretty much gone the way of the dodo, but this was a cool little machine. Oh heck, I just plain love SPARCstations.
During a 3 1/2 year contract with a Canadian bank, I had a Model 30 on my desk. Initially this was a very hip machine but was obsolete before the contract ended. I did love this machine and it was also my last SunOS machine (4.1.3). Took me more than a little time to embrace Solaris.
A “cheaped out” SPARCstation 5, the 4 was designed to appeal to those who wanted budget computing. Purchased used and cheap, these make great X terminals or casual development machines.
The SPARCstation 5 had basically the same form factor as the SPARCstation 4 and SPARCstation 20. This is a uniprocessor machine which was adequate as a development workstation. I never really used this particular machine much, but it does help round out my collection.
I purchased this dual processor SPARCstation 20 in 1998 and used it as my principal development server for 2 years until it was replaced by an Ultra 1. These boxes are just plain nice. With twin Sm71’s you can still do useful work on one of these.
SPARCstation Ultra 1
I used an Ultra 1 on a project for a Canadian bank (no, not that one, the other one). Strangely, the machine at the bank broke down a number of times during my 18 month contract. The machines I have at home (there are 4 of them now, but they’re not all running concurrently) have been running for years with no trouble. These have lately been replaced by Ultra 5’s and 10’s. I haven’t taken pictures of the Ultra 5’s and Ultra 10’s yet, but I will “real soon now”.
SPARCstation Ultra 1 in action
This is what one of the Ultra 1’s looks like “in situ”.
SPARCstation 2 in action
Another candid shot of the SPARCstation 2 in its native habitat. Recently this machine failed on boot and I chose to repair the NVRAM chip rather than replace the chip for $20 US. Click here to see how I did it.
I found this on eBay. The Voyager originally sold in March of 1994 for $13,995.00 US, and cost about $16,500.00 US when configured usefully. This machine was a groundbreaker, with Lithium Ion batteries, a 1024×768 high resolution color screen, low current processor and convection cooling. As much as I wanted one of these, the company president (me) refused to part with that much cash at that time. I recently purchased one on eBay for $120 US, complete with case, batteries, modem, etc., in “mint” condition. Better late than never, this machine is a beauty.
SPARCstation Netra X
Several years back, Sun announced a number of systems under $1,000 US. This is the Netra X, which was pitched as a good telco server. Now if only Sun could find a thriving telco with enough cash to buy a few, they might raise their stock price. I use this system “on the road” because it is small, light, and reasonably fast.
You can view more of John’s collection of old computers on his personal Web page.
John Dunn's Workspace
If you’ve slogged all the way down here, then you might like to see what all this stuff looks like in use. My view of the workshop is that sawdust on the floor means work is underway. Perhaps this explains the clutter?