MiST - Amiga ST FPGA + intro

Swift Griggs swiftgriggs at gmail.com
Thu Mar 31 15:15:14 CDT 2016

On Thu, 31 Mar 2016, ethan at 757.org wrote:
>> It's an "FPGA computer" it's hyper-neat, if you ask me. :-)
> Like that Transmeta!

... but even more flexible. The Crusoe could do some FPGA-alike things, 
but it wasn't a full FPGA. The one in the MiST is probably a Xilinx 
Spartan or something like that. Pretty fancy stuff. It's impressive that 
it can reproduce the entire Amiga 1200 down to every operational 

> Same. Drooling over the Wired 1.1 SGI Ads with the Indigo. And seeing 
> the Sparcstation 20s at NASA LaRC when I was in high school.

Very cool. I've never been inside any NASA building. The closest I've come 
is to drive by the Johnson Space Center in Houston when I was in high 

One thing that impacted me a lot when I was younger was when I'd visit or 
see video of any kind of place where technical or scientific work was 
going on, I paid a lot of attention to the computers people used. I 
noticed right away that pointy-haired-boss and bean-counters used one 
type, and the folks with a brain used a different type. So, right away I 
wanted to know what was special and cool about the guy in the corner with 
the purple computer. It's all just a jedi-mind-trick, I know, but it's 
just something that I've realized was very influential to me at the time.

> Interesting. The Origin 350 was another machine that had my eye. I've 
> never seen a Tezro IRL. So wild looking.

I don't think I ever even put hands on an O350. I've seen a bunch of o 
them for sale, though. They have a Craylink setup, IIRC. So, that's neat.

> Origin 2000 full rack

Nice! You must have a truck or cargo van with a lift or something. You 
mention a lot of really heavy rigs.

> Origin 200

I love these little guys. I've had a couple myself. These are really the 
premier IRIX server for the money if you don't need a framebuffer. I like 
Challenge boxes, but the O200 racked a lot easier than any Challenge I've 

> Challenge XL (x2)
> Challenge L (x4)

I had an XL for a while, too.

> Onyx RE (x3)
> Crimson (x2)

I wanted one of these two sooooo bad when they came out. The Crimson was 
also very cool because it _was_ crimson (in color). SGI was about the 
company that cared about that kind of industrial design in the 1990's. 
That and the fact that their machines were underrated vis-a-vis Sun. I 
couldn't believe how much better of a value the Indy and Indigo 2 were 
compared to Sun. They'd usually come with crap 8-bit graphics and some 
inferior sound device. For quite a while they had zilch for Z-buffered 3D 
while SGI ate their lunch, yet all my geek buddies still thought Sun was 
something special. They did some cool things, just not as cool as SGI was 
doing at the time. It wasn't until Jurassic Park came out that some folks 
started to appreciate the power of SGI boxes.

"This is Unix. I know this!"

> Indy (x 8?)
> Challenge S (x 2 IIRC)

Hey! You've had more Indy's than me! :-)

My friend Greg Douglas used to run Reputable Systems in Boulder. He's the 
only one I know of who has had more SGIs that you or I ;-) I saw his 
warehouse when Reputable.com was going strong. It was a little slice of 

> Indigo (R3K and R4K, hopefully still have the R4K CPU card)
> Indigo^2 (both Teal and Purple)

I used one of these when I worked at IBM for a while. I wasn't very 
popular with the AIX / Power folks, but what did they want me to use some 
RS/6000 or Intellistation running AIX.... no thanks. CDE < && != Indigo 
Magic. IMHO and YMMV of course :-)

> Octane

I never had an Octane, but I did have an Octane2 for a few weeks until the 
noise drove me insane and I got rid of it. It had low-end graphics anyhow.

> Never owned an O2, randomly just never landed one.

Bummer. They rocked pretty hard. I'm still seeing pristine O2+ rigs going 
for $400-$800. If it wasn't for the CRM graphics being limited to 
1280x1024 it'd still be my favorite.

> In that era I worked at NASA LaRC as a system admin and we had Origin 
> 2000s, one Onyx^2 running a cave, Challenge XLs, and Origin 3800s.

That sounds too awesome for words. Don't ruin it telling me about the 
bureaucracy or how none of it's funded, now. I'm trying to live in the 
past, dang it. :-)

> SGI machines were interesting. The origin 2000 and Challenge XL are 
> really friendly large computers to own. They're not crazy overbuilt, so 
> they're lightweight and friendly.

That's one thing that's amazing about the Tezro. You have a ccNUMA based 
memory design with a true crossbar architecture. The thing is a real 
little supercomputer. You could write MPI code on it and shoot it over to 
an O3k and it'd run like a champ. All that, and it runs on 110 as a 
deskside unit. It's just LOUD. I've even gone so far as to try to get more 
efficient fans from audio gear to replace the chassis fans. However, it's 
turned out to be a pain because of the fan sensors. Maybe one day I can 
3D print some specially shaped carbon-fiber fan blades and shrouds and cut 
the noise. :-)

> Power costs are definitely a consideration, and I'm in the same boat 
> regarding storage.

Yeah, I definitely just keep my gear on when I need it. I also use a 
Baytech RPC-10 to control power on my machines in the garage (and a serial 
console server for lights-out). I can turn most of them on and off from 

> Housing costs have doubled+ so moving large computer collection and 
> arcade collection everytime landlord raises rent too much or job changes 
> is a P.I.T.A.

A huge one. I credit the rise of so-called "hackerspace" clubs/shops to 
this issue. We want to keep these old gems, but uhhh.. where? So, folks 
get together and pile all the junk in one big warehouse on the stinky side 
of town. The only problem is that here in Denver, the ones I've seen don't 
take care of them and people are careless & abusive of the gear. I can't 
have my beautiful blue cases scratched up. :-)

> If only the US Government would stop manipulating the market in cahoots 
> with the bankers, prices would sink sink sink. Hopefully another crash 
> soon!

I'm right there with ya. I live in Denver and I work a decent IT job. I 
can't buy a house anywhere near where the work is. The wing-tips got em' 
locked up as investments. I'll be happy to rent space in the tent city 
once I'm too old to be of any use to my corporate masters. I just hope my 
savings will be enough to buy bread (or cat food?) when I'm elderly. All 
my talk of "what I'm gonna do when I get a house" is a pipe-dream. Like 
the rest of us, I'll be lucky to have a place to plug my computer in as 
our glorious future arrives.

> In the meantime, I do have my Cray J932SE up for sale. It's on eBay but 
> I'd rather sell around eBay. I need to shed that and an industrial robot 
> arm to clear out storage back in Norfolk!

I used to administer one of those a long time ago at a telco. They used it 
for fraud detection for their calling cards. It had a little SPARC box to 
help control & bootstrap it. UNICOS (it was 10.x IIRC) was weird stuff, 
sometimes but still fun.

> Cool. Probably bad caps, I replaced 4 in an Indigo^2 that I sold.

I've replaced a lot of NIDEC power supplies with Sony ones in my Indys. 
Those are the main ones I've had issues with. However, my IMPACT Indigo^2 
box had one die, too.

> He was saying he can swap the PSU with a PC one, I asked him if it's a 
> bad cap issue.

You can. They are electrically compatible, but the problem is that the 
Fuel mobo doesn't use a standard ATX connector. One needs only to 
hand-build a converter. It's not hard, you just need pin-outs. They are on 
Nekochan somewhere.

> He has a 2nd motherboard for it as well. He perked up when I mentioned 
> Tezro. He also hasn't seen one IRL

I've never had a Fuel. I was a bit put off by them at first because they 
reminded me of the way Sun started making the UltraSPARC machines like 
PeeCees. They basically looked like a PC with a different CPU (rather than 
something cool and different ala a SPARCstation). However, after seeing 
all the cool hardware you can make work in a Fuel, and considering you 
could get a near-silent 500W PS and replace the noisy one with some small 
effort, I've considered getting one, but once I got the Tezro, well...

That's actually part of the reason why I got the Tezro. I knew it'd make 
me stop lusting for a Fuel and a decent Rocktane^2 and thus save me money 
overall. :-)


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