Author Topic: A FPGA for the Mac OS future  (Read 1025 times)

Offline Bolkonskij

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A FPGA for the Mac OS future
« on: September 04, 2021, 08:47:19 AM »
This is a longer post. Grab a coffee :-)

The future of OS9
A few of us have tackled the "future topic" before. Even our beloved admin issued a statement about using emulation a few weeks ago. As our Macs get older, it takes more time & money to keep them running. And some users frown upon the thought of having old hardware in their home and rely only on software emulatiom.

So do we all eventually have to move on to Windows machines, emulate Mac OS with QEMU and pretend we're still Mac OS9 users? We could, but we'd lose a lot by it, wouldn't we? And I'm not talking about the software incompatibility issues ...

Other niche systems have had the same problem - the Atarians, the Amigans. How do they tackle the problem? They went FPGA.

How would that help us?
Essentially it's hardware emulation. It would be new hardware, but acting 100% like the old. Good for the next decades. Imagine: By flashing this FPGA with different cores you could turn the same board into a SE/30 and plant it into an original case. Or you make it an iMac and plant it into the beautiful casing, running 9.2 on it. Or build your own case for it?

The Amigans did create such an FPGA, even turning it into a stand-alone computer: The "Vampire". Essentially an FPGA with a core for a 68060 cpu running Amiga OS at high speeds. There's even new software being written for it. I heard the Atarians have the FireBee FPGA though I don't know any details (I vaguely remember Mat telling me about that project years ago ....anything interesting to add here @Mat?)

OK. How do we get a Mac FPGA?
For years I had hoped that someone would undertake the task to create a Macintosh FPGA. There has been an attempt at a Mac Plus core for the MIST FPGA, but it stalled at an early age. If one were to replicate the full System 6 to Mac OS 9 spectrum, the project would definitely not be an easy one. It would require someone with

- a deep hardware understanding
- a dedication to (classic) Mac OS
- not primary financial interest as there is no mass-market and you're likely to "just" break-even
- not being afraid of Tim's lawyers

I know what you're thinking and you're right. Nobody on earth will fullfil all four criteria.
Well, like I said, you're right. But there is one person that comes to my mind that could match at least 3 out of 4. Guess the name?

The Woz.

Did Bolkonskij lose his mind? Actually not. Woz is an overall amazingly cool guy. He's interested in hardware rather than software. And while he's more of a Apple I & II guy, he's not a stranger to the Macintosh. Best of all, if he builds 3.000 FPGAs for some hobbyists, Tim Apple won't risk sueing his ass for the bad press alone.

Even if The Woz wouldn't want to do it himself, he might *know* the right people who could pull it off, protected under his sacred wings. If you got a name, you gotta use it, right?

How could we ever get Woz to think about it even?

Remember the days we pestered companies like LucasArts to port X-Wing to Mac OS? Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. But when it worked, it was because of a collective effort by a community convincing the decision-makers. Let's try the same thing.

I don't propose pestering poor Woz!

Instead, let's coordinate sending him Christmas Cards for 2021 ! Wish him a Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays (whatever you'd like) and ask him about creating a classic Mac OS FPGA. Ask nicely. Be polite. Tell him Mac OS is still being used and loved. Tell him, it needs to be preserved. Tell him you trust him to do it.

To top it off, you could create the very Christmas Card on Mac OS to show how useful it can still be and mention that. Print Shop is still a good software. Or pixel a nice Christmas pic, print and glue it onto the card :-) I for one will use Studio/1 and pixel some b&w 1-bit Christmas motive.

I'll definitely send him a card, I just wonder if someone else from here would love to join in?

I'm writing this early in September, I know. Christmas 2021 seems far away. But I think we're all busy with our lives and having some lead time will be helpful. Plus if you're sending the card from somewhere around the world to the U.S. (like me!) it'll likely take some more days to arrive.

The more cards the man gets the more vivid our community will look like and the more likely such a new FPGA might become.

Anyone interested in joining in?
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Online teroyk

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Re: A FPGA for the Mac OS future
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2021, 01:22:21 AM »
The Amigans did create such an FPGA, even turning it into a stand-alone computer: The "Vampire". Essentially an FPGA with a core for a 68060 cpu running Amiga OS at high speeds. There's even new software being written for it. I heard the Atarians have the FireBee FPGA though I don't know any details

FPGA has limits. That's why Firebee is made like this:
http://firebee.org/fb-bin/about?lng=EN
So FPGA only do that stuff that not have to be so fast.
But there is easy available PPC processors still available, so why not use them.
I bought my first new Mac when OS X 10.1 released. And I bought that Mac because it had Mac OS 9 too. And I bought my first 68k Mac when Apple stopped PPC Macs.

Online teroyk

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Re: A FPGA for the Mac OS future
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2021, 02:08:11 AM »
OK. How do we get a Mac FPGA?
For years I had hoped that someone would undertake the task to create a Macintosh FPGA. There has been an attempt at a Mac Plus core for the MIST FPGA, but it stalled at an early age. If one were to replicate the full System 6 to Mac OS 9 spectrum, the project would definitely not be an easy one. It would require someone with
- a deep hardware understanding
- a dedication to (classic) Mac OS
- not primary financial interest as there is no mass-market and you're likely to "just" break-even
- not being afraid of Tim's lawyers

But I have to add that FPGA with CPU(s) is not bad idea at all.
- I am sure that there is lot of people deep hardware understanding from PowerPC Mac clones time 1995-1998..yes most of clones can run Mac OS 9.
- I am sure that there is dedication for Classic.
- I think there can be even financial interest..it is retro time!
- Actually do we have to afraid lawyers? if make FPGA (with CPUs) version from this:
https://everymac.com/systems/daystar/mp_plus/genesis_mp932_plus.html
It just gives freedom to users to install any OS. It just happening that in only can run Linux or MacOS.
That design has nothing to do with Apple.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2021, 02:22:29 AM by teroyk »
I bought my first new Mac when OS X 10.1 released. And I bought that Mac because it had Mac OS 9 too. And I bought my first 68k Mac when Apple stopped PPC Macs.

Offline jwells89

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Re: A FPGA for the Mac OS future
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2021, 11:04:48 AM »
The Amigans did create such an FPGA, even turning it into a stand-alone computer: The "Vampire". Essentially an FPGA with a core for a 68060 cpu running Amiga OS at high speeds. There's even new software being written for it. I heard the Atarians have the FireBee FPGA though I don't know any details

FPGA has limits. That's why Firebee is made like this:
http://firebee.org/fb-bin/about?lng=EN
So FPGA only do that stuff that not have to be so fast.
But there is easy available PPC processors still available, so why not use them.

Indeed. I'm no expert on these matters but my gut feeling is that the most productive path would be to design a logic board that hosts a CPU alongside an FPGA that stands in for the various other chips (particularly those hard-to-source ASICs) and a few expansion slots appropriate for the replicated system.

For PowerPC versions it may even be possible to support CPUs that are newer than those ever sold by Apple, though this may require some trickery depending on how far-removed the CPU in question is from old school PPCs (one could imagine a hardware or software component that translates instructions and otherwise fills gaps to allow OS 9 to run on a modern IBM POWER based system, for instance).

Offline IIO

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Re: A FPGA for the Mac OS future
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2021, 02:53:44 PM »
the one question is how effective you can run altivec optimized software, which calculates audio in vectors, on a simple logic gate type of processor.

the other question is if there will actually be FGPAs of 1000 times the speed in the future or if they eventually will die out and be replaced by something else.

durability, clock rate, IO buffers, physical size, energy consumption and a few other characteristics currently do not look so good. :)

despite the missing questionmark these are questions, because i have no clue.
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Online teroyk

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Re: A FPGA for the Mac OS future
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2021, 02:29:16 AM »
For PowerPC versions it may even be possible to support CPUs that are newer than those ever sold by Apple, though this may require some trickery depending on how far-removed the CPU in question is from old school PPCs (one could imagine a hardware or software component that translates instructions and otherwise fills gaps to allow OS 9 to run on a modern IBM POWER based system, for instance).

I think this is 100% Mac OS 9 compatible CPU:
https://www.nxp.com/products/processors-and-microcontrollers/power-architecture/integrated-host-processors/host-processor:MPC7410
But it might be good to check all of these:
https://www.nxp.com/products/processors-and-microcontrollers/power-architecture/integrated-host-processors:MPC8XXX7XXX#/
All of them might not be 100% compatible.
I bought my first new Mac when OS X 10.1 released. And I bought that Mac because it had Mac OS 9 too. And I bought my first 68k Mac when Apple stopped PPC Macs.

Offline IIO

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Re: A FPGA for the Mac OS future
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2021, 02:55:03 AM »
running, fine. but what about booting? :)
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Online teroyk

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Re: A FPGA for the Mac OS future
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2021, 09:34:49 AM »
running, fine. but what about booting? :)

Yes, it is only CPU. Just start Open Firmware after power-on-reset needs much more.

But if somebody try to make Firebee like computer to run Mac OS 9 then have to replace that Coldfire-chip (and FPGA stuff) with this:
https://www.nxp.com/products/processors-and-microcontrollers/power-architecture/integrated-host-processors/integrated-host-processor:MPC8610
That e600 core has all 32-bit PowerPC and 128-bit AltiVec instructions, but none 64-bit instructions..so I am not sure is it 100% compatible to G4.
But value is MPC8610 chip is has Memory and PCI Bus-controller..also it is hard part..have to patch Mac  OS 9 to use that...so just CPU gives more freedom
to choose everything around it.
I bought my first new Mac when OS X 10.1 released. And I bought that Mac because it had Mac OS 9 too. And I bought my first 68k Mac when Apple stopped PPC Macs.

Offline FBz

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Re: An FPGA for Mac OS
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2021, 10:15:37 AM »
I’ve kept quiet (I know…shocking!) regarding most of this, outside of my comments concerning DieHard’s initial foray into QEMU and primarily because most of it is way beyond my tiny brain. BUT the gist of it all remains that we’re looking for possible avenues to explore in the event that our now, much-beloved OS 9 hardware does eventually expire. [Not to mention the possibilities of running OS 9 on newer and faster hardware (emulated and or, not)]. So I believe that all this dialog is GREAT… as we all gaze forward.

And for those interested in contacting Woz with Christmas cards - to possibly spur him into involvement with a Mac FPGA (or just to wish him a Merry Christmas which isn’t a bad idea in itself) I contacted *Team Woz and they have provided a preferred address. (It’s in the attached image below… to be removed after Christmas.)

*It was a very nice exchange of emails. Very decent human beings.

So, whichever or whatever way you might be leaning with this subject or possible avenues… well, this is how it all really begins… isn’t it?

Onward!!!

And hey DieHard - jig’s up…
I saw that white LP in your video! ;)
« Last Edit: September 14, 2021, 10:44:05 AM by FBz »

Online teroyk

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Re: A FPGA for the Mac OS future
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2021, 01:22:23 AM »
But we might not want FPGA only based "slow" Macs. I think nowadays this might maximum be as fast as this:
https://apple-history.com/6100
That is way I talked about CPUs and micro-controllers.

Maybe we should start new topic how we get Open Firmware work with this ready designed PowerPC-motherboard:
https://www.nxp.com/products/processors-and-microcontrollers/power-architecture/integrated-host-processors/high-performance-computing-platform-ii-hpc-ii:MCEVALHPC2-7448
or
just start testing how some of first G5s start (where it start stop) when trying to boot to Mac OS 9:
http://macos9lives.com/smforum/index.php/topic,5531.0.html
I still waiting for first detailed test report from somebody...And why I just wait..because my G5 is the last model and hardest to get ever work.
I bought my first new Mac when OS X 10.1 released. And I bought that Mac because it had Mac OS 9 too. And I bought my first 68k Mac when Apple stopped PPC Macs.

Offline IIO

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Re: A FPGA for the Mac OS future
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2021, 04:19:58 AM »
from what i can see these halfway matching FPGAs today are at 1.7 MHz with 2 MB backside cache - which is exactly the same maximum specs of the physical original in our macs.
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Offline IIO

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Re: A FPGA for the Mac OS future
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2021, 04:20:13 AM »
...
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Online teroyk

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Re: A FPGA for the Mac OS future
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2021, 07:09:14 AM »
from what i can see these halfway matching FPGAs today are at 1.7 MHz with 2 MB backside cache - which is exactly the same maximum specs of the physical original in our macs.

If I have understand right, it is much compromising complexity and speed, if you try fit whole computer in one FPGA.
But yes, FPGA:s going bigger and faster. But if there is CPU available then CPU and FPGA is better than just FPGA.
I bought my first new Mac when OS X 10.1 released. And I bought that Mac because it had Mac OS 9 too. And I bought my first 68k Mac when Apple stopped PPC Macs.

 


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