NEXTSTEP 3.3 on a SPARCstation 10


I finally received the SCSI2SD v6 adapter, which allows me to emulate a SCSI hard disk and a SCSI CD-ROM drive on the SPARCstation 10.

Following the Wiki page NEXTSTEP on SPARCstation 5 with SCSI2SD as a reference for configuring the SCSI2SD worked great, for the record:

  • CD-ROM: SCSI ID 6, 512 bytes per sector, big enough to fit the ISO image
  • Hard Drive: SCSI ID 3, size 2GB, 512 bytes per sector (SEAGATE ST32155N)
  • Parity enabled
  • SCSI-2 mode enabled

Fixing up the hard disk config:

  • Export config as XML
  • Change "sectorsPerTrack" to 139
  • Change "headsPerCylinder" to 4
  • Save and re-import the XML config

When connecting the SCSI2SD to a computer via USB, it will appear as a USB Mass Storage device, and the CD-ROM drive will be writable, so one can dd the disk image to the CD-ROM drive and boot this way (this will come in handy later when adding the NEXTSTEP 3.3 Developer CD image).


After installing and booting (Stop+A, then boot disk in OpenBoot), we are greeted with the NEXTSTEP user interface, which looks quite familiar if one has ever used WindowMaker on Linux.

The default shell has no tab completion, but interestingly, NEXTSTEP comes with zsh, which was quite advanced even back then (it recently became the default shell in macOS Catalina, which is a descendant of NEXTSTEP, so it was fun to see it already shipped with the OS in the 90s):

Developer Tools

Playing around with the shell and vi (which says it's version 3.7) gets boring quite fast, a little Google search later gets us the ISO image of NEXTSTEP 3.3 Developer Tools, which installs with a package manager not unlike the macOS package manager:

And the classic "Hello, World!" (with some argc printing for variety) works just as well:

Font Rendering Issues

For some reason the font isn't as readable when it's black-on-white, but when selecting text (so that the background is more grey than white) makes the font appear properly.

I do not know if that is a software issue or an issue with the MBUS graphics adapter (although there's no graphical issues in the OpenBoot interface, so maybe it IS a software thing). I'm using a DB13W3-to-VGA adapter and an LCD monitor, maybe the way NEXTSTEP renders the fonts would make it look nice on proper Sun analog monitors from back in the day.

Thomas Perl · 2019-11-07