Tyne RISC PC Deskstation

Wow, another MIPS running Windows NT appears in the wild!

This is a great tear down, and look at a MIPS desktop from back in the day, sold to run Windows NT.  It’s hardware shares a lot from PC’s of the era, from the AT keyboard, serial mouse, ISA slots, with a VL S3 video card.  One day I hope to get a MIPS NT machine, although they are incredibly rare to find.

8 thoughts on “Tyne RISC PC Deskstation

  1. Nice! I’ve got a physical Powerstack which in theory run NT. Haven’t tried it though because it flashes a firmware incompatible with AIX. Maybe once I’m done with AIX emulation I’ll give NT a spin. On the other hand I like communicating with the machine using a serial line and NT has likely some other preferences, so we don’t suit each other.

      • I’ve dumped the ROMs of the both Powerstacks, and then found them in my collection already, so the machines are not that rare. The Powerstack II Utah came as a DIY: it’s a motherboard, a raiser board (I don’t use it), a Cirrus Logic VGA (would require the raiser) and a 2 GiB SCSI disk. The latter is as valuable as the motherboard because I haven’t seen the AIX 4.2 for Powerstacks anywhere. I also made an image of the disk, but a quick analysis has shown that it’s taken from a production machine. I would prefer not to share it until I can boot and clean it from any personal data.

        This weekend I had some progress with the SCSI issue – it turned out to be a missing PCI feature. Now I have to understand how the bus mastering is supposed to work on the Powerstacks. Have a draft blog post, but must beautify it before publishing. Will update it with some techno porno images of the Powerstack II Utah motherboard.

        The Powerstack I does look cool: http://www.corestore.org/e.gif . Unfortunately I’ve found no manual how to open it. So, unless anyone has a manual, no techno porno of Powerstack I.

        • Ive seen one of those e’s in a data centre once, it looked like a HiFi. They also had a NeXTSTATION running some db middleware. But there was no trace of it, when they dumped it for a whitebox running NeXTSTEP.

          I think the powerstacks are of the same era of the Apple servers that ran AIX… I almost wonder if they are all CHRP enough to run the same OS……

      • The Powerstack I is no CHRP at all. A pure PReP, even no OpenFirmware. Well, supposedly the NT firmware is OFW based, but since it can only boot NT, I haven’t looked at it.

        The Utah one is somewhere in between, but at least with the firmware it came with its no PReP – there is no residual data, and no CHRP – some crucial properties in the OFW device tree are missing.

        As for HiFi, indeed they do look HiFi, but still they have a 50Mhz CPU and no L2-cache. At least the one I’ve got. So I guess any 486 workstation would perform better in number crunching. And with a good SCSI controller/disk it would probably be better in every task.

        Btw, speaking of Apple. Mitch (the author of the original base OBP, OFW and the IEEE 1275) told me once there was a port of MacOS to PReP done by some company in the Switzerland. But it was never published because of political reasons.

  2. What a bizarre machine. I’ve seen ISA adapted to many RISC platforms (mostly in the form of EISA), but VLB? Man, PCI needed to be around, stat. VLB was so i486 dependent and fussy, it was hard enough to get running on a Pentium. I couldn’t imagine the tricks the chipset had to do on MIPS RISC machines to get it working.

    On the not surprising side, the ARC BIOS has an on-board 8086 emulator to run VGA and PC expansion ROMs. Alphas did this too. Quite a bit easier to just use off the shelf PC cards for booting and video vs. making special ROMs for them.

    For those folks that have been tortured with editing NTLDR’s boot.ini on x86 machines, this is the system to blame for those stupid paths that appear in the file. Microsoft originally targeted NT for MIPS systems and thought ARC style paths for drives and partitions were the future.

    • It made sense at the time, there was backlash against the original PCI bus on the 486, as being too costly, and buggy as hell (Original BIOS+Chipsets were not the best on launch), and VL was the cheaper alternative.

      I had a VL system and it was much cheaper than PCI, and performed just as well. What is amazing to me, is that it’s far easier to find 5v PCI & ISA boards than VL cards. That window was pretty damned small, but as a side effect of being in the moment, the VL path was the way to get cheap affordable PC components onto a board with a MIPS processor.

      However with a $8,479 price tag, it was priced well outside of my reach. Even today I don’t think I could spend $13,585 USD on a single computer.

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