SPARCbook 3000ST – a serious laptop from 1997

We have to talk: This is seriously the coolest laptop, I’ve ever seen. A SPARCbook 3000ST from 1997, manufactured by Tadpole Technologies, running Solaris and OpenWindows.

The particular machine has an interesting pre-dot-com-crisis corporate history and features some impressive specs:

  • A 170MHz Fujitsu TurboSPARC CPU (the fastest SPARC CPU before everyone moved to the 64-bit UltraSPARC platform) as well as Sun’s OpenBoot PROM
  • A whopping 128MB of RAM (in 1997, this unimaginable in a laptop)
  • Sun Microsystems Solaris 2.5.1 UNIX installed with the OpenWindows desktop
  • A slim magnesium alloy body that is military-grade (this thing is entirely metal except for the ergonomic handrest)
  • An IBM Thinkpad keyboard (IBM was an early investor in Tadpole)
  • Built-in ISDN, Ethernet, PCMCIA, external SCSI, keyboard, mouse, VGA and sound in/out ports
  • An LCD readout of system status
  • A price tag of $21,000 US

More here, including images and video links, on this 2019 blog post by Jason Eckert:

"SPARCbook 3000ST: The coolest 90s laptop" (jasoneckert.github.io)


Via HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29081101

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This was indeed a very cool laptop, but its window of coolness was quite brief.

In mid 2002, my manager at an all-Sun prepress house managed to snag one of these in a surplus auction. He must have got it very cheap, because he was a careful fellow and our company didn’t have much money. It was slow and clunky compared to the low-end Sun Ultras we used in the office. Last I heard of it, he was just about able to use it as an ssh client to work remotely, but only as a last resort because it was so slow.

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I still think Open Windows was one of the cleanest desktop environments around. It tickles that same minimalistic clean vibe that System 7 did for me. Such a handsome OS and laptop.

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Back in 1997, I would have stood before this in awe, though – that is, had I had the chance to do so. :wink: Five years were a quite a span, then.

I liked those more open, friendly GUIs, as well. I found, it took me just a bit longer to orient and to find any items, etc, when everything went grey and thick borders (on the Mac with OS 8 / 9). Eventually, I hacked my own Mac appearance for a more System 7 like look.
(Which is what I got as daily driver, not those fance Sparc machines. I actually ran Solaris on a PowerMac [and a PC, as well], but then it was already CDE.)

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