SUN4/75 SparcStation 2

Hardware FAQ Info

SPARCstation 2 (4/75)
        Processor(s):   CY7C601 @ 40MHz, TI TMS390C601A (602A ?), Sun-4c
                        MMU, 16 hardware contexts, 28.5 MIPS, 4.2
                        MFLOPS, 21.8 SPECint92, 22.8 SPECfp92, 517
                        SPECintRate92, 541 SPECfpRate92
        CPU:            501-1638/1744
        Chassis type:   square pizza box
        Bus:            SBus @ 20MHz, 3 slots
        Memory:         64M physical on motherboard/128M total, 64K
                        write-through cache, direct-mapped, virtually
                        indexed, virtually tagged, 32-byte lines
        Architecture:   sun4c
        Notes:          Code name "Calvin". 1M or 4M x 9 30-pin 80ns
                        SIMMs, possibly higher capacities as well. Case
                        slightly larger and has more ventilation. (Some
                        models apparently have LSI L64811 @ 40MHz?)
                        Expansion beyond 64M is possible with a 32M SBus
                        card which can take a 32M daughterboard.

SPARCserver 2
        Notes:          SPARCstation 2 without a monitor/framebuffer.



Here is the interior of the unit, where you can see the 3 bays (2 HD, 1 floppy), although in this shot, the second HD and floppy were removed.

This machine has all the RAM banks filled with 4 Meg 30pin true parity SIMMs, so the total ram is 64Megabytes. No SBUS cards are currently installed.

The large black square, on the far left side of the machine, is the CPU, in this case, a Weitek "Power-up", which turns the SS2 from a 40Mhz machine into an 80Mhz machine.

In the front of the machine, you can see an extra fan and the plastic housing for the internal speaker.
Here's the rear of this same unit, showing (from left to right): The Power switch and cord plug, the fan, the external SCSI connector, AUI Ethernet, Serial Port "A", Serial Port "B", Keyboard connector and Sound in/out connector.

The three rectancular holes above the ports are where the connectors for Sbus cards would be. Normally, these are covered by metal shields (just like on a pc), but they were removed.
And here's the machine again, with an extra HD and the floppy put in for placement purposes. I usually run my machines as empty as possible, to save wear & tear (why run a floppy I never use?), and to keep these things running as cool as possible. If it's going to sit in a corner an act as a web server, then I take out anything not related to that purpose. That's just me. If this were a general purpose workstation, I'd have it loaded with cards and keep the floppy in there.

Anyhow, from this photo, you can see that the floppy sits, facing the right side of the unit, and you'll also note that, unlike a PC, ejection of the floppy is controlled via software and the floppy. It has a motorized ejection, so there's no external button to remove the floppy. You can eject from a command in the OS (SunOS, Solaris and Sparc Linux all have an "eject" command), and there's also an eject command from the ROM Monitor.

What's this still good for?

The SparcStation 2 is still a darn good workstation, though a little slow when it comes to running graphics and being a "X" station. However, properly outfitted with upgrade chips (an 80Mhz version of it's CPU is available), enough ram, and a lightweight OS such as Linux (Solaris will creep on this machine), it's actually useable. It's equivalent in raw CPU speed to a 486 at 80Mhz to 100Mhz. However, total throughput is actually a bit higher - because for one thing, the CPU is really optimized to run UNIX, while an Intel processor isn't.

Next, this box has SCSI, while most pc's have IDE, and SCSI is quite a bit faster. Plus, everything, including the enternet, is all integrated into the main board, so there's no "bus" problems (most 486's are ISA bus).

So, actual overall performance is actually a little bit better than a 486 at 50Mhz. Not that this is going to go head to head with a Pentium III, but for acting as DNS, or light web hosting, or a small mail server, this is a fine box. Don't try and make it do everything, as many services eat RAM, and a high load will slow the thing down to a crawl. However, for a single use, lightweight server or low-end workstation, this will provide many years of trouble free service.

Common Questions Regarding This Hardware

My NVRAM is dead. What can I do?
If you're getting messages about a bad IDPROM, or your ethernet address is coming up as ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff, and the machine is refusing to boot, then your NVRAM is probably dead. The item is a DIP style, socketed chip with battery backed RAM holding parameters about your machine (and a clock). When the battery dies, it's time to order a replacement, and then reprogram the NVRAM with a new hardware ethernet address and some other parameters. Please read the NVRAM FAQ to learn how to resurrect your machine from the dead.

I don't have a Monitor. Can I connect through the serial port?
Yes. All you need is a null modem cable (not a laplink cable!) and something that will act as a terminal at 9600, 8N1. Please read my Serial How-To to see the full details on running a Sparc in a "headless" state.

Can I use a VGA Monitor, and a PC keyboard?
Yes, sorta, and somewhat, sorta... Sparcs use a proprietary 13w3 connector (except until recently, when Sun switched to using PCI cards, and now use a standard VGA connector), which can be adapted to a VGA Style connector, but the sparc framebuffers usually put out 1152x900 at 66Mhz, which many of the cheaper VGA monitors do not sync to. You'll need the adapter and a decent monitor. Sun machines also require a proprietary Sun keyboard and mouse, but of course, someone out there does make a box that converts the signals so you can use a PC keyboard on a Sun (or use a Sun keyboard on a PC). However, I've never seen one of these things in real-life, and I find it's easier to obtain a real Sun keyboard than all the wacky converter do-hickies required to make it work.

How do I boot from a CDROM?
You'll need a bootable ISO image CDROM. You'll need a SCSI CDROM drive with a 512k block size (most Toshiba and NEC mechanisms support this) set to SCSI ID #6. At the prom prompt, type "b cdrom" or "boot cdrom", depending upon which prom revision you're using - in many cases, either will work, but if one doesn't the other will. If you're looking for a copy of Linux, has downloadable ISO images you can burn onto a CD yourself. If you don't have a burner, cheapbytes sells very inexpensive copies.

How do I boot from a Network?
There's a pretty good net-boot HOW-TO at:, but if anyone wants to get their's listed here also, send me a URL!