MiST - Amiga ST FPGA + intro

Swift Griggs swiftgriggs at gmail.com
Thu Mar 31 17:49:45 CDT 2016

On Thu, 31 Mar 2016, ethan at 757.org wrote:
> This was my place of work:

Killer pics. What is that octagonal structure (room?) behind the machines? 
Dude, *please* tell me that was your office.

> [...] I find myself with lift gate trucks fairly often (I let a gaming 
> fest use a lot of my games so they go out once or twice a year, and 
> friends do the same.)

Huh, I wish they had a gaming fest like that in my area. That sounds like 
a good time.

> The interesting thing is, I've always been so underwhelmed with the 
> Crimson. Sure it's red,

Well, it was a forbidden fruit thing for me. I never got to touch that 

> but the black deskside Onyx with the purple stripe or blue Challenge was 
> just so much better to me. RE graphics, and the ability to go to 12 CPUs 
> on the deskside Onyx (Am I right? Or was onyx limited to 4 and Challenge 
> L was 12, can't remember) just made the Onyx way more desireable to me!

IMO, you are right on all points. I wished they would have allowed the 
4-way R10k boards to work in tandem, because you'd have got 24 CPUs that 
way. IIRC, you could use dual R4k's or dual R10k's for a maxxed out 
version (12-way). Overall, they look a bit cooler and fit with the SGI 
motif better, too (purple / blue). The Reality Engine was also a killer 
system for caves. I built one for the DOE years ago using a similar setup. 
With the full kit they had genlocks, SVideo, a frame grabber, ridiculously 
overspec'd sound I/O, etc... When you look at the rear of an Onyx you 
definitely start thinking "This thing is built for fun and interesting 
media work."

> Oh wow! So my first SGI, the Indigo R3000 then with 8bit graphics now 
> mine has Elan graphics, the one I still have, I bought from 
> Greg/Reputable!

Small world, eh? Well, he is an awesome guy. He lives close to me and we'd 
go to computer swap meets in Golden together sometimes when he ran 
Reputable. I haven't talked to him in a few years. The first time I ever 
saw Quake III running at impressive framerate was at Greg's place on a 

> He was pretty much the source for the hobby world until eBay picked up. 
> XSNet or whatever in Georgia was another source.

Yep. Sadly they are both gone, now. Hey! Maybe that's what we can do in 
retirement rather than work at Wendy's: Setup a hobby computer store 
online that sells nothing but old hobby junk. Wouldn't be the first, but 
it sounds better than flipping burgers. Then again, I'm not sure my eyes 
are going to last that long...

> I used to go to NASA Auction and for instance I traded a bunch of SGI 
> video boxes used for one of those systems ?Gallalieo? Some Onyx video 
> rig

I was obsessed with getting a Galileo board, myself. I wanted one and an 
Indy to go with it so very badly when they were new.

<long story>

I have a story about that board. I used to live in Amarillo, Texas for a 
while. There was this computer store there, called "Thoroughbred 
Computers" (I'm pretty sure that was it). It was the main computer store 
in town during the mid 1990s. It was like a Frys or Microcenter, but 
smaller and with elitist PeeCee guys (kind of an oxy moron eh?) staring at 
you from across a dirty service counter like you were a scum covered turd 
for asking to see that SIMM module or Cyrix 586 board.  The guy who owned 
it had big dreams of doing 3D & video production. So, he bought a bevy of 
SGIs. He had a couple of Indys and a couple of Indigo^2 machines. One of 
the Indy's had a Galileo board in it. He also had a Toaster 4k, rig.

I got the feeling that the guy who owned the joint was a real tool. His 
trophy wife, of course, wanted to run the 3D & video production studio (in 
cow-town Texas.... great idea eh?). The only problem for the both of them 
was that they only had PeeCee dweebs working there. When they started 
having some Unix issues, they didn't know what to do. When I say Unix 
issues, I mean like how to add the default route or re-install the OS. So, 
they contact this professor at Amarillo College (a Jr college where I 
schooled). He was one of about 3 Unix savvy people in town at the time. He 
was busy building a ranch outside of town and didn't want to consult for 
them but he gave them my name. "This kid knows Unix. He can do what you 

So, they came to me to do some basic stuff. I was in college at the time 
and I was so jealous they probably thought I was from Mars because of how 
green I was around them. Still, it was a chance to put hands on some new 
Unix metal and I was 200% game for it. I came in and chatted with the 
owner's wife and to say that she was clueless is being gentle. It's a 
wonder this woman could dress herself without help, she was pure arm-candy 
only. They had zero chance of success and I was irritated that those 
beautiful machines were going to waste, but what could I do?

About six weeks after that incident, it turns out that this owner had 
incorporated the computer shop so he could better hide how much he was 
stealing and not paying taxes, et al. There was some other criminal and 
general scumbaggery going on, but I can't remember everything. The cops 
wanted to know where the guy was and wanted to arrest him. So, *poof* he 
skips town and nobody can find his goat smellin' hide. They never did, as 
far as I know.

The bank decided it didn't know WTF it was going to do with a ton of crap 
PC hardware (nice at the time, though) and four glorious SGI machines. So, 
they auctioned them off lickety-split off folding tables in the front of 
the store (indoors at least). I went to the auction with $1200 bucks. I'd 
borrowed $400 from my grandmother. I think I was 19 or something (I'm 41 
now). All the SGI's went for more or slightly more than that. I was so 
disappointed. I guess I should have mowed some more lawns or something...

Even more weird, one of the crooked-owner's sycophant business-disciples 
buys up some of the gear, including a Apollo Domain/OS workstation. He had 
decided to start one of these new things called an ISP to give people 
access to this thing called Internet. You know, you load Trumpet Winsock 
and you are good to go! (as long as your PPP setup is working). The Apollo 
workstation needed to be a DNS, SMTP, POP3, NNTP, server and run routed 
(modem channel banks used RIP routing). He didn't know the first thing 
about Unix or TCP/IP, since the only thing he'd been trained in was how to 
steal, effectively.

So, this new scumbag who learned at the feet of his master (kind of like a 
Sith and Sith Lord, actually), decides HE also needs a Unix guru and goes 
back to Professor Haiduke for help. Prof blows the job off and sends it to 
me again (he wanted to get his new place settled and get outta the 
business, I think, but he was smart).

I worked at this little rinky dink ISP (it was called "Genesis") for about 
3 months. Then I come in one day, and this lawyer (the place was inside of 
a law office and some of the lawyers managed parts of the biz... different 
long story) comes up to me and says "Swift we've been keeping an eye on 
the folks here and it turns out you are the only one who isn't trying to 
steal money from the business and pay personal expenses with it." These 
guys had been stealing money from our general revenue and paying for child 
support, truck payments, BMW payments, etc... Soooo, they were fired and I 
found myself running a dial-in ISP solo for a while. That's how I became a 
"real" sysadmin, as opposed to a nutty student Unix zealot. The only 
reason the ISP existed was because scumbag 2.0 had convinced a rich widow 
that he could use the Internet / web to find the killer of her son who was 
an LAPD officer killed while on duty, and these lawyers all managed her 
trust funds or whatever rich people have for that kind of thing. Needless 
to say, it all fell apart when I started telling folks the truth. However, 
the lawyers thought having a SprintLink T1 to the office was the greatest 
thing ever so they paid my crappy salary until I moved to Norway after the 
T1 contract expired.

Now, as for those SGIs, well the head scumbag (2.0) of the ISP, before he 
was shown the door, told me he knew one of the folks who bought the SGIs. 
It turned out they had the Indy with the Galileo board. They also had 
problems booting one of the machines due to something dumb they'd put in 
their inittab (a :wq at the bottom - nice vi skills). So, I negotiated 
that I'd fix that machine if they'd give me the Gallileo board from the 
spare Indy they had. I didn't even have an Indy! They didn't even know 
what it was for, and they agreed. They were doing 3D with Alias, so they 
didn't care much about video.

It took me two or three more years (I moved to Norway for a while after 
that) to get a machine to put it in. However, by Jove, I got *something* 
from them after all. Every time I turn on my Indy, I wonder if they ever 
caught up to the crooked owner dude or if he just started over scamming 
somewhere else...

</long story>

> Oh wow more old pics:
> https://users.757.org/~ethan/pics/office/dec02/IMG_0057.JPG
> https://users.757.org/~ethan/pics/office/dec02/IMG_0058.JPG

Very cool. I can see those challenge S boxes up there. Too bad the cases 
fade so much faster than the normal Indys. I would also have liked it if 
they'd have had more badges for them.

> Oh no that group is going strong and probably has crazy toys. Last I 
> heard I think they were rocking 2.2 petabytes of disk or something, and 
> that was 8 years ago?

Yay! Go NASA! NASA and a few DOE (NIST, NREL, etc..) branches are about 
the only good parts left to our poor bought-and-sold gubment.

> Nice, I use similar boxes with AMX NetLinx controller for home 
> automation.

Hmm, I never thought of using home automation gear for that and I even 
used to work on home automation controllers (Colorado vNet before they 
folded). Doh! Good idea!

> Nice! My Cray lived at the Norfolk VA hackerspace until it's demise, and 
> a few of the other systems were there but nothing like a full on museum.

Hopefully they didn't beat it up too bad.

> There was a college class that came to see the Cray once. That was 
> interesting.

Cool. School them youngsters.

> Same! Cash out and move to flyover country! Or commercial space since 
> most of it won't be needed with Amazon!

Next work-from-home gig I hook up with, I might have to do just that. I 
dearly love Colorado, but that doesn't mean I can't move to some tiny 
agri-town and live in a converted machine-shop or something. I'll be 
buggerized if I'm going to give 2x the cost of a house to a bank for a 
mortgage on a place that's already twice as expensive as it should be for 
what I'm buying.


It'd get real time call data and then if it detected that a calling card 
was being used in two geographically dispersed areas too close together 
time-wise, then they'd figure it was a stolen card and freeze the account. 
The Cray was the only thing that could handle all those data streams. It 
was at MCI in Colorado Springs, years ago. It had a zillion network 
interfaces, too.


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