[TUHS] SUN (Stanford University Network) was PC Unix

Earl Baugh earl.baugh at gmail.com
Sat Apr 10 06:02:54 AEST 2021

I’ve done a fair amount of research on Sun 1’s since I have one ( and it has one of the original 68k motherboards with the original proms ).  It’s on my list to create a Sun 1 registry along the lines of the Apple 1 registry. (https://www.apple1registry.com/)
Right now, I can positively identify 24 machines that still exist.  Odd serial numbering makes it very hard to know exactly how many they made.  

Cisco was sued by Stanford over the Sun 1.  From what I read, they made off with some Stanford property ( SW and HW ). Wikipedia mentions this ( and I have some supporting documents as well ). They ended up licensing from Stanford as part of the settlement.  From what I’ve gathered VLSI licensed the design from Stanford not Andy directly. However the only produced a few machines and Andy wasn’t all that happy with that. That was one of the impetus is to getting sun formed and licensing the same design.  I also believe another company ( or 2 )licensed the design but either didn’t produce any or very very few machines. 

You can tell a difference between VLSI boards and the Sun Microsystems boards because the SUN is all capitalized on the VLSI boards ( and is Sun on the others ).  At least on the few I’ve seen pictures of. 

The design was also licensed to SGI — I’ve seen a prototype SGI board that’s the same thing with a larger PCB to allow some extensions. 

And the original CPU boards didn’t have an MMU. They could only run Sun OS up to 0.9, I believe was the version. When Bill Joy got there, again from what I’ve gathered, he wanted to bring more of the BSD code over and they had to change the system board.  This is why you see the Sun 1/150 model number ( as an upgrade to the original Sun 1/100 designation ).  The rack mounted Sun 1/120 was changed to the 1/170. The same upgraded CPU board was used in the Sun 2/120 at least initially.   

The original Sun OS wasn’t BSD based.  It was a V32 variant I believe.  And the original CPU boards were returned to Sun, I believe as part of the upgrade from the 1/100 to the 1/150. ( Given people had just paid $10,000 for a machine having to replace the entire machine would’ve been bad from a customer perspective).  Sun did board upgrade trade ups after this ( I worked at a company and we purchased an upgrade to upgrade a Sun 3/140 to a Sun 3/110 — the upgrade consisted of a CPU board swap and a different badge for the box ) 

Sun then, from when I can tell, sold the original CPU boards to a German company that was producing a V32 system.  They changed out the PROMs but you can see the Sun logo and part numbers on the boards 

I could go on and on about this topic 🙂
A Sun 1 was a “bucket list” machine for me - and I am still happy that some friends were willing to take a 17 hour road trip from Atlanta to Minnesota to pick mine up.  🙂

After unparking the drive heads it booted up, first try ( I was only willing to try that without a bunch of testing work because I have some spare power supplies and a couple plastic tubs of multi bus boards that came with it 🙂) 


Sent from my iPhone

> On Apr 9, 2021, at 11:13 AM, Clem Cole <clemc at ccc.com> wrote:
>> On Fri, Apr 9, 2021 at 10:10 AM Tom Lyon <pugs at ieee.org> wrote:
>> Prior to Sun, Andy had a company called VLSI Technology, Inc. which licensed SUN designs to 5-10 companies, including Forward Technology and CoData, IIRC.  The SUN IPR effectively belonged to Andy, but I don't know what kind of legal arrangement he had with Stanford.   But the design was not generally public, and relied on CAD tools only extant on the Stanford PDP-10.  Cisco did start with the SUN-1 processor, though whether they got it from Andy or direct from Stanford is not known to me.  When Cisco started (1984), the Sun-1 was long dead already at Sun.
> Bits passing in the night -- this very much is what I remember, expereinced. 
>-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://minnie.tuhs.org/pipermail/tuhs/attachments/20210409/1de4fca7/attachment.htm>

More information about the TUHS mailing list