One of the last 68k-based workstations Sun Microsystems manufactured, the sun 3/80 is a somewhat unusual and difficult to find computer. It closely resembles the older sparcstations, and indeed, uses many of the same parts as its faster RISC-based siblings. It's an interesting box which documents a step in Sun's migration away from CISC machines to the RISC powerhouses they would soon develop.

Technical Specifications:

  • Sun Part Number: 603-1298-01
  • Model Number: 147
  • System Type: Sun 3x
  • Processor: Motorola 68030 running at 20 mhz. Reportedly upgradable to >=50 mhz
  • FPU: Motorola 68882 running at the same speed as the CPU
  • Memory: Up to 16 30 pin, 100ns SIMMs, in sets of 4. Early models could only use 1mb SIMMS, but those sparcs with ROM version 3.0.2 or later could have up to 40mb, when using 3 banks of 4mb SIMMS.
  • Video: Early CG3 graphics. All 3/80's could connect to monitors with 13w3 connectors, with some units having video boards with connectors for both 13w3 and DB9 connectors for interfacing with older monochrome monitors.
  • Floppy: Standard Sun-type floppy. Unlike the later sparcs, this box cannot boot off the floppy.
  • Hard Drives: 2 ports for standard 50-pin SCSI hard drives. This is the only pizza box style type 3 sun with internal hard drives
  • Audio capabilities: None
  • External ports:
    1 Sun Type 4 keyboard port
    1 PC-style parallel port
    2 Serial ports. 1 with a DB25 connector, 1 with a DB9 connector
    1 AUI Ethernet port
    1 68 pin SCSI port

Using a sun3/80

Perhaps the most difficult part of using a sun 3/80 is putting an operating system on it. As alluded to above, this unit is incapable of booting from a floppy or a CD-Rom, which are the devices most people use to install an operating system. Instead, one must either netboot or boot from a tape device, both of which have their hang-ups. Once an operating system is on the box, however, it's just like any other Unix box, though it is fairly slow by todays standards - you probably don't want to run X on this box.

OSes that'll run on a Sun 3/80

As this is an older Sun box, your choices of software to run are somewhat limited. The most obvious solution is to run older versions of SunOS. The newer versions won't run on this box, but the early 4.x series should run fine on this box. NetBSD will also run on this box, with some adjustments. The version of NetBSD for Sun 3s on the NetBSD CDROM is designed for the older 68020-based suns, and is incompatible with the 3/80. However, netbsd's FTP site has a version compiled for the sun 3/80 available in the sun 3x directory. Use that version, and there should be no problems installing the software.

Once the OS is installed, you should have no problems running software designed for the older sun boxes; its simply the kernel that needs changed to compensate for the differences in the boxes. Other OSes have similar caveats - the hardware's different enough that the stock kernel won't run on them. Check the readmes before downloading to potentially save yourself some time and frustration.

Where can I get a 3/80

Your best bet is to look around. The 3/80s are a bit more rare than other sun boxes, though they do come up for sale from time to time on such auction sites on ebay. You shouldn't have to spend more than about $20-$30 to pick one of these units up. These are great boxes for anyone interested in old suns, or old computer hardware in general. They're not speed demons by any means, but they're a fun box to play around with, and to remember the good old days when hardware speed was measured in the tens of megahertz.

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