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68k but not Mac, the NeXT thing


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This was a big score for me, haven't had a big conquest in a long time. Obtained a very nice NeXTStation Color set, with 2 slabs (with sound boxes and keyboards/mice), 1 MegaPixel 17 inch CRT, and a lot of software and documentation.

There will be quite a bit of work to be done to fix these. Out of the gate, 1 slab has a dud PSU, the other slab fired up a few times, but now refuses to power on. One of the two PRAM/CMOS/NVRAM/whatever batteries still has a good charge of 3.2V, the other one was empty. Both have HDD issues. I ordered 2 new old stock power supplies to get these boxes quickly running, but that will not work long term as these PSUs will die just like the used originals. Will need to find someone able to rebuild these power supplies as the design is beyond my skill ability. I could handle a Sun IPX PSU, but not this crazy multi-layer compact PSU that NeXT used. The MegaPixel display is still nice, has a bit of wobble until it warms up, but after that it's solid. Other than the above issues, everything is in good shape.

Software wise - big score as well. Many different versions of NeXTStep (3.1, 3.2, 3.3 68k, SPARC, PA-RISC, i386), the developer and user tools, FrameMaker, Mathematica.

These slabs will pair well with the Sun pizza boxes and IIfx in my collection.

I have to say, the mag-alloy construction of these slabs is impressive. The quality is top notch.

Plan right now is to put NeXTStep 3.3 on the slab with more RAM, and perhaps 3.1 on the one with less RAM.


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I see 4 SMD Electrolytic caps on the main board? Do these leak like they do on Macs and Amigas? They look fine from the photos, in fact, they look like new ones.


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They can leak like on anything else, but these have not leaked at all, and probably do not need to be swapped. The dust layer around them is not oily at all. From what I can tell reading up on the slabs, their main weak point is the passively cooled power supply unit. Well, it's kind of passive. Heat from the PSU is transferred to fins on the case that the fan exhausts the system air from. There is no thermal interface material between the PSU and the lower case, so it's metal on metal transfer. I might correct this with some type of thermal pad to protect the new power supply units.


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Do these leak like they do on Macs and Amigas?
They certainly can, and even if they haven't in this case, they did in my own NeXTstation Color Turbo slab. My recollection from a few years ago is that NeXT were pretty uniform in their capacitor selection for logic boards, with most SMD electrolytics being 47uF and perhaps a few others being some other value.


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Great find. I miss my NeXTStation Turbo. This is what mine looked like:


And yes, I did once have a massive Konica-Minolta colour laser printer just chilling in my bedroom. And yes, my walls were green. :eek:


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So, I got the following items in the mail for the NeXT's from Black Hole Computing:

  • 2x New Old Stock slab PSU's
  • SCSI2SD with NS3.3 Image pre-loaded
Also got a set of new Panasonic batteries from Digikey for both slabs.

Got the slab with 32mb of RAM working. It had a bad PSU preventing it from powering on. Both factory batteries still hold a good charge somehow. My first impression of NeXTSTEP 3.3 was that of total shock. In terms of boot time, it absolutely smokes similar *NIX systems of the era. The UI is very polished yet minimal. Have to say I really like the machine so far.

Big kudos to Black Hole Computing for putting together an awesome NS3.3 image with a ton of software pre-loaded. Really lets you jump right into your NeXT right away.


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Nice find!

I've never yet used a NeXT machine of any sort (though I would like to, someday), nor have I ever used any version of NeXTSTEP or OpenSTEP (I have used the GNU/Linux-based clone called WindowMaker, which offers a close approximation of NeXTSTEP).

My interest is getting piqued, however. Is there a way to run the i386 version of NeXTSTEP and/or OpenSTEP on a modern-ish PC via virtualization? QEMU, perhaps??



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Why not run NEXTSTEP (capitalisation varies) on a modern PC using the "Previous" emulator to emulate black hardware (i.e. a 68k-based system)? I think it may wind up being easier than x86 virtualisation, although it is something people do: getting that path to work is a topic discussed occasionally on the NeXTcomputers.org forums. Meanwhile, here's the loooooooong thread about Previous development, which is a good way to stay up to date with what's being developed there.

As far as NeXTstep (capitalisation varies) goes, prepare to be... whelmed. I find that NeXT predicted the future so well that NeXTStep (capitalisation varies) kinda just feels like a modern computer without a few of the refinements that came in the decades that followed it. It's amazing if you think about it, but you sometimes have to remind yourself to think about it :)


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Outside of a NeXTstation Turbo, I've found that the most fun vintage machines to run NeXTSTEP on are compatible SPARCstations.


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I have a SPARCStation 5 that would be perfect for running NeXTStep, it has the AFX 24 bit framebuffer and 256mb RAM. Right now it has a very cozy Solaris 2.6 install loaded with period software and modern GNU utils.


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NeXT on SPARC has a big issue where there's almost no software for them. I did compile a bunch of freeware stuff for NeXT 3.3 SPARC but it's all still your average "90s utilities" and nothing significant to show off the platform. HPPA, m68k and i386 all got binaries compiled for all 3, but you had to scroll for SPARC and no one seems to have selected it.

Here's a link to that: https://fsck.technology/software/NeXT/NeXTSTEP Applications/Freeware for SPARC (Various)/