Sparc-based workstation in Sun's lunch box style chassis. The IPC is a fairly common and inexpensive item, as many large institutions picked up several of these diminutive workstations. Though they are too slow to run modern windowing systems such as enlightenment or gnome, they are plenty fast for an xemacs session in a lightweight window manager such as Open Windows

Technical Specifications:

  • Sun Part Number: 600-2569-05
  • Model Number: 47
  • Service Code: 4/40
  • System Type: Sparcstation
  • Processor: 25 mhz Sparc-based processor manufactured by such firms as Weitek and LSI. Some brave souls have managed to overclock these processors by swapping out the clock chips, but that requires fairly decent soldering skills.
  • Memory: Up to 12 30 pin, 80ns parity SIMMs, in three banks of four. It can handle either 1 or 4 megabyte SIMMS in all three banks, allowing it to have up to 48 megabytes of RAM
  • Bus: 2 Internal sBus slots.
  • Video: Internal BW2 monochrome graphics. The IPC could drive both monochrome and color monitors with its internal 13w3 graphics connector. If this box was being used as a workstation as opposed to a box in a render farm, one of the sbus slots was usually used for an additional framebuffer, such as the CG6
  • Floppy: Standard Sun-type floppy. The floppy drive is bootable
  • Hard Drives: 1 internal bay for a standard 50-pin SCSI hard drive.
  • Audio capabilities: Integrated audio chip for basic sound capabilities - this box delivers nowhere near CD quality
  • External ports:
    1 Sun Type 4 keyboard port
    2 Serial ports. Both are Din-8 serial ports like older Macintoshes use. However, the pinout of the IPC's ports is different than the Mac's. As a result, there is no hardware flow control if one interconnects the two devices.
    1 AUI Ethernet port
    1 68 pin SCSI port
    1 Audio Port. Though the IPC has integrated audio facilities, it does not have integrated audio ports. In order to use the integrated audio, one must purchase a dongle which converts the internal Din-8 port into traditional 1/8" style headphone ports.
  • Other: Some revisions of the IPC have an easter egg. In the lower left corner is a small Jack O' Lantern silk screened onto the motherboard. This easter egg does not appear in all revisions of the board; there is very little information on the internet as to what revisions of the board will have this egg

Using a IPC

Like any older computer, the most important thing to have when running an IPC is patience. Most software available today will run on an IPC, albeit slowly; as far as raw speed goes, it's comparable to approximately a 486/50. As a result of this, one probably doesn't want to run Quake III on this device. X runs decently on this device, though one should probably stick with a lightweight window manager, as many of the larger ones need a faster computer in order to seem responsive. These boxes are also great if you want to run a personal Web or DNS server. As long as you don't expect too many hits, you can comfortably run a Website on an IPC. As long as you don't expect to get slashdotted, you'll be fine.

OSes that'll run on a Sun IPC

UNIX. Like most Sparcs, the IPC will run most 4.x versions of SunOS, and also Solaris fairly well. NetBSD, OpenBSD, and Linux will also run on these older sparcs. There have been reports, however, that some 2.4.x releases of the Linux kernel won't run on the IPC or other 32 bit sparcs, so it would be a good idea to check the web and newsgroups before installing. Performance on all OSes is similar, so it basically boils down to personal preference in choosing which OS to run.

Where can I get an IPC

Like any older Sparc, your best bet is eBay. Much of the hysteria over older sparcs has died down, so the prices on them are fairly reasonable - you can usually get one for about $15-$20 US, though occasionally you will find one cheaper than that. These boxes will often come barebones, but both hard drives and memory are cheap enough that it shouldn't make much of a price difference. Though they're not speedy enough to run the latest and greatest software, IPCs make a great little box for learning Unix, or setting up as a server for one's vanity site.

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