Sun SparcStation 4 - Need Help to Hook up cables, & Docs

Sean Caron scaron at
Sun May 3 15:40:32 CDT 2015

SS4s are not bad little systems if you want to get started playing with
sparc32; basically a factory-hobbled SS5. I see Jonathan gave you a pretty
good rundown ... not much I can add to that ... if you have a monitor but
you are missing the keyboard and mouse, I have way more sets of Sun Type 5
keyboards and mice than I will ever know what to do with; you're welcome to
a set for cost-of-shipping from Michigan, just ask.

I find it's most convenient to run them off the serial console as Jonathan
describes at least for initial testing... there's a good chance that the
little Dallas battery-backed SRAM is dead at this point in time, which
might nuke any password that might be set in OpenFirmware ... If not, I
think there is a jumper on the mainboard you can use. I am pretty certain
there is always a workaround for the firmware password on this series of
machines (not always the case with some platforms and vendors) so you
should be able to get in there one way or the other ...

If it's just that the root password for a Solaris install on the disk is
unknown, no worries, just reload the machine, no problem, lots of operating
systems will run on these old Suns. You don't want someone's old gungy
installation anyway :O

Another side effect of the NVRAM battery going flat that you will want to
be aware of is that the MAC address of the internal Ethernet NIC will be
wiped out ... so you will have to manually set it every time you power up
the machine... this gets annoying. The easiest and cheapest workaround is
probably to just get yourself one of those dirt-common Sun 10BT+SCSI Sbus
cards and add that in there; the MAC address is hard-coded on those so you
don't have to fool around so much if you want to get the machine on a
network. You might already have one ... is there an Sbus card installed?

Also curious about what monitor you have ... most if not all Sun monitors
are just rebadged Sony and Hitachi CRTs and all I would typically expect to
see on them is the IEC power plug and 13W3 for video ... usually if there
was a port for stereo glasses, it was on the video card itself ... as
Jonathan says, definitely no PS/2 here!

These machines will run NetBSD and OpenBSD very well, older releases of
Solaris (i.e. 2.5, 2.6) more slowly. I've still got a few SS4s myself but
don't run them too much.

You probably won't get too much support from "Sun" now that they have been
swallowed up into the evil empire of Oracle but there's just tons of
information about these machines floating around on the Web; these systems
and their cousins the SS5 and SS20 were very popular in the workstation
market and thus pretty common in collectors hands.



On Sun, May 3, 2015 at 3:36 PM, Jonathan Katz <jon at> wrote:

> Hold your horses :) We'll get you squared away.
> Suns of that era use a proprietary keyboard connection; nothing is PS/2.
> You plug the mouse into the keyboard and then the keyboard into the system.
> Older Type4 keyboards will work but you want a Type5.
> The DB25 labelled A/B is a serial port with ports A & B (ttya, ttyb)
> combined. Sun would sell a splitter cable. Standard cabling will give you
> access to the "A" port. With no keyboard and monitor hooked up, using a
> serial cable with null modem (9600-8-n-1) you should be able to get onto
> the console of the system and see how it is set up.
> Look at the website below, and scroll down, and you'll get some diagrams
> and photos of how the back of a Sparc4 will look and what the ports will
> do.
> The monitor should hook up via 13w3, but without a keyboard you're not
> doing much of anything. On boot the Sun will search for a keyboard. If
> there is none there it will change its default input/output to the serial
> port (ttya which we talked about before.)
> Any PS/2-style hookup on the back of a monitor may be for 3D glasses or
> similar, but I'm not familiar with those setups on Sun systems.
> What's the model number of the monitor? Did you get a keyboard at all?
> On Sun, May 3, 2015 at 9:27 PM, Kip Koon <computerdoc at> wrote:
> > Hi Guys,
> >
> > I obtained a Sun SparcStation 4 at the CoCoFEST for which I need some
> > information on the proper hook up of the cables.  The SCSI cables I can
> > guess, but the PS/2 cables I'm not so sure of.  There is one PS/2
> connector
> > on the back of the Monitor labeled A/B and on the SparcStstion itself is
> a
> > DB25 pin connector labeled Serial A/B.  Do these connect together?  One
> > PS/2
> > connector exists on the Sparcstation so how does both the PS/2 connector
> on
> > the Keyboard and the mouse connect to the SparcStation?
> >
> > Also I understand that it is password protected so I need the
> > "Super-secret"
> > procedure to remove the password.  I was told this is possible.
> >
> > Documentation in any form is quite necessary as well.  Any leads as to
> > where
> > to obtain these as well?  I haven't looked at yet, but I most
> > certainly will.  Your help is most appreciated.  Thank you in advance for
> > any help you can give.  Take care my friends.
> >
> >
> >
> > Kip Koon
> >
> >  <mailto:computerdoc at> computerdoc at
> >
> >  <>
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> --
> -Jon
> +32 0 486 260 686

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