What is the latest pentium chip supported for NeXTSTEP 3.3 or OpenStep, thanks

Started by pTeK, April 08, 2022, 07:24:54 PM

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 I want to build my own whitebox for NeXTSTEP 3.3 or OpenStep (NeXTSTEP 4.0). I was wondering what is the maximum pentium chip supported?

 I'm assuming the minimum is a 486DX2-66 (486DX2-100 would be better). Can I only use single core pentiums with fpu, intel atom cpus, last being a PIV-3.06GHz?

 Will NextStep 3.3 run on a amd64cpu but only one one core?


http://www.shawcomputing.net/resources/next/hardware.html says i486dx to pentium with fpu.


I ran it on a pentium2 back in the day. But I wouldn't be surprised if a pentium 4 could run it.


Quote from: zombie on April 09, 2022, 02:56:53 AMI ran it on a pentium2 back in the day. But I wouldn't be surprised if a pentium 4 could run it.

Thanks for that zombie, I've got an old Dell Inspiron laptop that I brought in 2003 which had a PIV 3.06Ghz cpu and 512 or 1024Mb RAM with a ATI gfx card. I will try that with NeXT Step.

Did you try the VESA mode? I'm happy with only grey scale if I can't find a compatible graphics card to start with.

What speed was your PII? How fast were compilation times with GCC and how fast was interface builder on your PII?


My PII was probably around 200MHz so ancient. I had a really specific graphics card that was known to work with NeXTSTEP 3.3+, and it ran in full color at something like 1600x1200 @24bpp resolution (so for 21" monitors at the time). It was called the #9 Imagine 128 (with 8MB of memory). That was early days though, so I'm sure almost any later hardware would surpass it and should be able to run graphics.


I have it running on an old COMPAQ Deskpro EN (Pentium III Coppermine 1.0 GHz 133 MHz FSB).

October 12, 1988 Computing Advances To The NeXT Level

Rob Blessin Black Hole

Pentium IV works and I know some Dell Optiplex's were configurable easily as all the onboard components Eide, Video and Ethernet were supported directly with NeXT drivers and I think a few even had compatible sound cards. This would be 95 96 when NeXT web-objects ran the Dell E commerce website then Dell dropped WebObjects with the Apple NeXT merger but the Dells actually ran Rhapsody Intel as well. So the transition OS Rhapsody was a hybrid cross between Openstep 4.2 and Mac OS through an emulator blue box. Apple kept the Intel version of Mac OSX peculating in the back ground code named Marklar  until they ditched the Power PC chip an moved Apple hardware to Intel processors.   They would not have been able to release Apple Hardware on Intel initially IMHO because the Apple Mac OS  developers were pissed enough about many things lol as I recall many had written millions of lines for Copeland which Jobs dumped . Man oh man it was interesting being at the Apple developer conference displaying Intel Hardware running rhapsody (Openstep 5.0) in 1997 , the same one that the surreal Bill Gates on giant screen partnership greeted with boo's and Bond i Blue Mac we;re introduced. Jobs announcing  no one could tell us the difference between the Apple model 6300 and 7200 Macs so we dumped it all lol and here is the new Mac , I thought that looks cool bt others in attendance not so much and the rest is history.   After the presentation a group of us  had a brief interaction / discussion with Steve about the future of Apple and one thing stood out to me , when he said let us know what you think we are listening,  which reminded me of his greeting on the NeXT 68K hardware in Mail on earlier versions of NeXTstep 3.0.  Located here not sure why it won''t play in Quicktime http://www.nextcomputers.org/NeXTfiles/Audio/Sounds/Snd/
Rob Blessin President computerpowwow ebay  [email protected] http://www.blackholeinc.com
303-741-9998 Serving the NeXT Community  since 2/9/93


Quote from: Rob Blessin Black Hole on April 27, 2022, 02:08:44 PM...  which reminded me of his greeting on the NeXT 68K hardware in Mail on earlier versions of NeXTstep 3.0.  Located here not sure why it won''t play in Quicktime http://www.nextcomputers.org/NeXTfiles/Audio/Sounds/Snd/

I uploaded it to YT a while ago: https://youtu.be/lCPlGgA6tE4
October 12, 1988 Computing Advances To The NeXT Level



TL;DR: 440BX with a Pentium 3, 768MB of RAM, ISA audio. Newer than that and you get ugly tradeoffs.

Also, I was wrong about the fastest CPU. Apparently there are some 440BX boards with a 133MHz front-side bus. With one of these, one of the 1.4GHz Tualatin Pentium 3s would work, though AFAIK they're all Slot 1 boards so you'd need a slocket. The IBMs I mention are all 100MHz FSB machines, though.

I've been trying to figure out the same thing.

The best I've been able to discern is this: the CPU matters a lot less than all the gubbins around it. I suspect, but am not 100% sure, that OPENSTEP will have a cow if there's no ISA bus on the machine - note that there's still internally an ISA bus even on some later motherboards that don't have any actual ISA slots.

What you will need is a disk controller that works. That presents some challenges today - SCSI disks are getting harder to find, and most of those still in production are Ultra320 LVD devices with 80-pin SCA connectors. There's at least one card supported by NS/OS that can talk to LVD devices without dropping to pokey mode. If you want flash storage, for the great reductions of seek time, though, it's far far easier to adapt IDE than SCSI.

Adapting SCSI to modern flash storage means either finding a SCSI SSD (direly expensive, rare), finding a way to bridge SCSI to IDE or SATA (hard to find, expensive when you do), or using one of the various SCSI emulators (SCSI2SD, BlueSCSI, RaSCSI, ZuluSCSI). These are pretty slow, topping out around 7MB/sec even with a very good SD card. You'll still get the latency benefits, but your disk bandwidth will be fairly bad - your exact use case determines how much this matters.

If you go IDE, be aware that the only chipset really usefully supported for DMA modes is the Intel PIIX, which means a motherboard with the Intel 440BX chipset is about as late as you can go. If you're willing to be limited to PIO Mode 4 (16MB/sec with some CPU overhead) you can use almost anything but IDE under OPENSTEP is known to be somewhat fiddly. With IDE, you can either bridge to SATA (easy to get) and use a SATA SSD, or use one of those IDE-CF pin adapters with a good CF card. IDE-SD bridges are possible too but in my experience more likely to be fiddly than CF cards or IDE-SATA bridges.

Your next big limits are sound and graphics. As I understand it, because of how DPS works, OPENSTEP uses all graphics cards in unaccelerated framebuffer mode, which means that using the VESA driver is just as good as using a specific driver. What matters is the bus speed and the card's memory bandwidth.

As for sound, as far as I can tell, there are no supported PCI sound cards, so if you want sound, you need a machine with an ISA slot or an onboard ISA sound chip. There is a very alpha driver for cards based on the Ensoniq ES1371 chip out there (SoundBlaster 16 PCI, SoundBlaster PCI 128, others), but I've never tried it and I have no clue if it works, or how well. The Github page says it doesn't support recording and probably never will, so if you need to record, it's ISA or bust. (Or code your own driver - I think it'd be kosher to borrow code from Linux sound drivers here, but it's not a trivial project especially if you've never written a driver before.)

Based on all of this, I think the latest machine that could run OPENSTEP without incurring a lot of ugly tradeoffs would be something with a 440BX chipset. This means a Pentium III 1GHz at most (if you can find one of the rare 100x10 Coppermines), with an ISA sound card (Soundblaster 16/AWE32/AWE64 or ESS Audiodrive), an AGP graphics card, and an Intel or 3Com NIC. The IBM IntelliStation E Pro or IBM PC300PL are nearly perfect for this.


I just got my hands on an IBM PC300PL, 350MHz Pentium II (upgradable to a Pentium III as soon as I find one for a reasonable price), 768MB RAM, Matrox G400 16MB graphics, 8GB CF card for storage, onboard Crystal CS4236 (SB Pro-compatible) ISA audio, Intel PCI Fast Ethernet onboard.

I'm going to set up OPENSTEP 4.2 as soon as I get some space to set it up for testing. Seems like it'd be a really good machine for OS/2 Warp and BeOS too.


I have OS4.2 Mach running very nicely on my 800 MHz Pentium-III computer on an Asus motherboard. It could run on a P-4 as well, but then it's hard to find a motherboard with AGP, PCI and ISA slots and those CPUs run hot and need loud cooling fans. Also, I wanted a motherboard with the Intel 440BX chipset as it was rock solid under OPENSTEP. I also wanted an ISA slot to use my AWE64 sound card (although some SoundBlaster PCI cards also work now with a community-provided driver). Added an Intel 100Mb Ethernet card, Adaptec 2940 SCSI and a GeForce 4 Ti using the VESA VBE driver over DVI and it's great. System is lightning fast and rock solid.


I have Openstep 4.2/Patch 4 running on a "HP Compaq 8000 Elite Ultra-Slim Desktop Business PC" made around the end of 2009.

The processor is a Pentium Dual-Core E5400 2.7 GHz which I think is a Core 2 Duo with half size second level cache.

SATA works fine and fast with regular IDE driver, also DVD-Rom drive.

The usual VBE modes are available to 1280x1024x32 over DisplayPort. A cheap adapter to HDMI works fine.

Sound and Network are unavailable.

I am using a PS/2 keyboard and mouse. The legacy emulation does not work with my USB mice.

I did not install Openstep on that computer but moved my disk image from VirtualBox over to the SSD. It uses my own version of boot2 aka booter developed from the Darwin sources. This booter stops after enumerating 512 MB of RAM even if the computer has more memory (2 GB). The booter from Patch 4 might do this differently so having more than 512 MB of RAM installed might be a problem.

The Full-HD LCD I am using always scales the picture to 1080v which looks terrible from 1024v. So I had to develop my own display driver that is able to do 1920x1080x32. It always amazes me, that DisplayPostscript can handle that. It would be interesting to know, if Windows 95 or an implementation of X-Window from that time can do that.

The computer is not as quiet as a Mac Mini from the same time period but the noise from the fans with Openstep 4.2 is not greater than running Windows 7 on it.

I started working on a Sound driver for HD-Audio on that computer, but that is a different story.


I have found just running on some fast new hardware with a VM to be faster and easier, certainly if you want to run on a laptop. I think I can run in much higher resolutions than on old hardware.


I've done some playing with VMWareFB... The maximum I'm able to comfortably run is 1920x1080.

I tried at 2650x1440 (with 512MiB VRAM configured in VMWare), but NeXTSTEP 3.3 fails to bring up the window server and reboots.

I'm not sure if this is an issue with NeXTSTEP itself or the VMWareFB driver -- I'm tempted to do some more experimentation with it at some point.
Lisp Hacker


Quote from: Ingo on June 04, 2022, 01:35:08 PMThe Full-HD LCD I am using always scales the picture to 1080v which looks terrible from 1024v. So I had to develop my own display driver that is able to do 1920x1080x32.
Do you think 1920x1200 might work? I'm considering building a PC for Openstep 4.2 and would love to use the native resolution of my older LCD monitors.