Silly BSD questions (Now Utek)

Jules Richardson julesrichardsonuk at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Apr 30 05:41:24 CDT 2007


Rick Bensene wrote:
> There are quite a number of versions of Utek (@&^!&^ Outlook won't let
> me capitalize the "t").

There's an easy solution to that ;)

>  The first versions were for the National 320xx
> CPUs. This ran on the 6205's, 6130, and 4132.  Later, a Motorola
> 68000-based verson was released.  It ran on the 2nd-generation machines
> -- I can't remember the model numbers of off the top of my head.  These
> machines came in between the earlier National-based machines, and the
> XD88 series machines, which were based on the Motorola 88000 CPU.  

Indeed - the XD88 is actually "UTek V", and I'm not sure if the 'V' is just a 
UTek version number, or implies that the OS is tweaked with features more in 
keeping with the SysV line.

> XD88 machines were quite powerful, and had really nice graphics
> processors that made things like 3D solids modeling run really nicely.
> Graphics performance was very high compared to many other vendors at the
> time.

The machine's certainly lovely to use (although mine's a lowly /10 and lacks 
all the serious 3D hardware) - it feels amazingly responsive compared to what 
such as Sun were doing at the time.

The chap who contacted me actually worked on the 3D hardware microcode; he 
said that for a brief period (of mere weeks) the XD88 was probably the fastest 
3D platform out there, until SGI came along with a new model and blew them out 
of the water.

> Unfortunately, Tek never really knew how to market computers.  The Tek
> 4051/4052/4054, and to some degree, the Tek 4081, were the only real
> Tektronix computer products that were market makers.

The way my engineer contact told it, Tek management were totally unable to see 
anything except terminals - even the design philosophy forced on the XD88 was 
that of a 3D terminal coupled to a UTek compute engine via a 
not-particularly-quick bus.

Management even had a slogan: "KISS A RIJAT". "Keep It Simple, Stupid - And 
Remember, It's Just A Terminal!"

> Utek was very BSD 4.2-based.   The XD88 version adopted some SVR4 stuff
> both at the utility level, and some system calls.

Aha - see above. I did wonder. (I keep doing this - I read a bit of a post, 
start a reply, and then read the rest of it as I'm replying :-)

> Tek scrapped a lot of machines.  Some ended up going up for sale at the
> Tektronix Country store for fractions of cents on the dollar.  Some were
> sold at "fire sales".

I really wish they'd kept at it. Whilst they perhaps couldn't have competed 
with SGI longer-term, they were heading in the right direction and probably 
could have found a niche making systems with good graphics support where the 
overkill of an SGI monster wasn't quite needed.

I'd love to find a Tek XD88/30 though with all the serious 3D bells and whistles.

> I have a working 6130, 4132, and one of the 68K-based machines.   The
> biggest problem with the 4132 and 68K-based machine (I wish I could
> remember the model number) is that the 1/4" cartridge tape drive
> capstans turn to goo.

Hmm, mine's OK in my XD88. With those sorts of drives it seems to be totally 
random as to whether you get a bad one or not.

> The 6130 used floppies for loading up the OS.  I still have all of the
> floppies (they've been imaged), and they still work.  I have cartrdige
> tapes for the 6130 and 4132 Utek versions

You're lucky. My XD88 came with no OS media, no docs, a failing hard disk, a 
trashed filesystem, no knowledge of what the root password was, no mouse, no 
display, and no keyboard. It took quite a while to sort that lot out :-) I'd 
still like to find OS tapes for it sometime, but don't hold out much hope.

My box was owned by IXI and used as a development host for their X.desktop 
software, so it has a minor interesting role in computing history I suppose.

cheers

Jules



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