Sun 386i/250

 

CPU: 25MHz Intel 386 with an i387 FPU

RAM: 16MB

Graphics: cgthree color framebuffer

Harddisk: 327MB

bus-type: ISA

Operating system: SunOS 4.0.2

build: 1988


  The Sun386i is a strange box. In 1987 Sun made an attempt to use the new Intel 386 which was cheaper and sometimes faster than Motorola's 68020 processors. The result was the Sun386i. It's a real, genuine Sun with an Intel processor combining Sun's custom hardware and software with the PC world.
In 1987  the 386 processor was brand new. It was 32bit and it was fast compared even to established processors used in most Unix machines. That might be a reason why the Sun386i's code name is "roadrunner". "roadrunner" became very well known. GNU configure for example knows "roadrunner" as an alias for the "i386-sun-sunos4.0.2" platform. That's quite usefull as it fails to detect the 386i automatically.
The 386i has a few ISA slots, a 3.5" floppy disk drive and it's housed in a mini tower case. However that's all what relates it to a PC, well, almost. The roadrunner runs Unix of course, but there's a pretty good PC emulator included. It emulates an 8086 CPU and lets you run DOS and PC applications.
My roadrunner has MS-DOS 3.3 installed as well as Windows 3.0. I must admit that Windows runs like a pig within that emulator and crashes frequently, but do we really expect anything else ;-) You can play the original Tetris for DOS if you want to.
The first SunOS release that supported the 386i was 4.0.1, but it was very buggy. The upgrade to 4.0.2 is generally recommend. 4.0.2 is officially the last release that runs on the 386i although there are some rumors that SunOS 4.0.3 was sent to some customers before the Sun386i line was cancelled.
After all, the roadrunner is a very interesting piece of computing history. It stands somewhere in between the Sun3 and the Sun4 line.

This is how the Sun looks inside. It's hard to believe, but Sun fitted a full size 5.25" harddisk inside the case. The two boards at the bottom are the memory board, holding 16 1MB RAM modules and the cgthree graphics board below.


Here is the rear view. There are Ethernet, serial, parallel and the old 50pin SCSI connectors The connector below is the graphics board. The special thing is that keyboard and mouse are attached to the graphics board. The connector is even different in the monochrom version of the 386i. Make sure you  get the monitor cable too if you ever run across a 386i.


UPDATE: I gave away this machine in 2005.