Porting OpenBSD to the Solbourne S4000

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A long time ago, I convinced Mike Nicewonger to give me a Solbourne S4000. Of course, I would have preferred a S4000DX, which has an L2 cache and better memory replacement capabilities, but this was better than nothing.

If the name Solbourne does not ring a bell, or if your memory is faulty, you might want to spend some time visiting the Solbourne Shack to get information about these machines.

The curse of those Solbourne machines is that, albeit being close to Sun machines, there were enough differences to make them more difficult to hack on. Too many differences against the equivalent Sun hardware, less friendly PROMs, and fewer systems sold did not help.

It is then not surprising that no free operating system runs on Solbourne hardware. Back in 1997, Tristan Gingold had ported OpenBSD on the Series 5 kbus machines; but the port was still experimental and had issues; it was never really completed, and was removed a few years later.

Although I am always short of free time to hack on lost causes like the Solbourne hardware, I really wanted to get something to run on the machine; and I was not really keen running OS/MP. So I kept gathering (scarce) documentation, and thinking about the port... and after a few years, I eventually started the porting effort.

Most of the development has been done on a SPARCstation 20 running OpenBSD, powered by an SM81 processor. Experiments and real testing have been conducted on the following critter:

Solbourne Computer Workstation S4000
Copyright (c) 1990 Solbourne Computer, Inc.
BOOT ROM Version: fmh 12/18/91 23:49:05
16 Megabytes memory installed
Warning: Serial Number is not set
Ethernet Address = 00:00:8e:01:01:97


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