Feeds

back to article Linux kernel dumps 386 chip support

Linus Torvalds has announced the Linux kernel no longer supports Intel's 80386 processors. Reg readers will doubtless recall that the 386 debuted way back in 1985 and made something of a splash when the chip found its way into PCs made by Compaq before an IBM PC bearing the processor reached the market. 386s screamed along, by …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Anonymous Coward

Re: The joys of open software

You're forgetting a major point that sort of completely invalidates your argument. Whichever kernel you choose up to the latest one that runs on the 386 can be recompiled, altered and upgraded at your will. Nothing stops you forking the current kernel and keeping your own 386-good branch. It will not be as cheap as free, but possible to do.

Try that with your Windows/OS X/OS2 binary release of 15 years ago and come back with your results.

8
0
Silver badge

Re: The joys of open software

The joy of open software is that you can fork the code if you do not like where it is heading. Not trivial, but not impossible. You are allowed to. Try that with commercial code.

6
0
Anonymous Coward

@localzuk

If you are using mandatory profiles then use a gpo to stop Windows making a local cached copy of the profile. If you are using mandatory profiles then this is the recommended way of using them. If your network is so slow that local cached profiles are necessary then you need to upgrade your infrastructure, if its because the server isn't always available then maybe local profiles would be a better option.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: The joys of open software

Not really 27 years old, because it was (and probably is) used commonly in embedded systems.

http://www.reghardware.com/2006/05/18/intel_cans_386_486_960_cpus/

March 2007 is when Intel stopped making 386s.

3
4
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: The joys of open software

@deluded wanker

XP is only still around because companies refused to buy Windows Vista. Neither of them will run on a 386. I can't remember when Microsoft dropped support for the 386 but it could have been as far back as Windows 95. More recently you can pity those poor fools who have bought Windows Mobile or Windows Phone devices only to see support for them dropped after about 12 months, Microsoft's approach to drivers was laughable for years - basically anything was possible and this was a major source of problems for many because buggy hardware would rely on fixes in untested drivers.

There are lots of things to criticise about Linux and its development but this isn't one of them. Anyway if you want to keep your old 386s running up to date unix just switch to NetBSD!

9
1

Re: The joys of open software

"You really can't count on free software being sustainable in the long run."

I was somewhat surprised and dismayed the other day when I went looking for "gadgets" for my windows 7 laptop. I don't normally go anywhere near them but I wanted something specific, I forget what now though.

Anyway, upon clicking "Get more gadgets online" I was taken to a page that said:

"Because we want to focus on the exciting possibilities of the newest version of Windows, the Windows website no longer hosts the gadget gallery. " (not even the ones that used to be there)

If wikipedia is correct then Windows 7 is only about 3 years old. Microsoft is already dumping additional stuff from Windows 7 to "encourage" people to upgrade to Windows 8.

9
1
Silver badge

Re: The joys of open software

The removal of gadgets was over a security flaw - but they saw so few people bothered to use them, I guess they couldn't be bothered to fix it, and put their effort (which is to say almost no effort) into Windows 8 instead.

0
1
Silver badge
Thumb Down

Re: The joys of open software

> So there's a little lesson.

RICHTO, stop posting as an anonymous coward.

6
0
Bronze badge

@ AC [Microsoft Salesman?] = Re: The joys of open software

Wrote :- "MS (and presumably Apple) long ago learnt the true value of drivers, API stability, etc. Like it or loathe it, the fact that Windows XP has been maintained all this time, still works, and so forth is fairly impressive"

Please keep your analogies relevant. Torvalds is talking about the next version of Linux. That is equivalent to Windows 9, not XP. Will W9 run on 386's? I would not know and don't really care (who the hell would want to do that anyway?) and would not criticise MS if it didn't. Perhaps you can tell us, as you seem very close to MS?

Also, XP is still used by a large percentage of people, including me when I use Windows. OTOH 386 processors are not much used now, and those that are are used for special applications for which the developers are quite capable of chosing an appropriate version of Linux.

6
0
Windows

Re: @ AC [Microsoft Salesman?] = The joys of open software

Windows 8 System Requirments:

Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2

So no 386's then.

PAE: Pentium Pro or newer

NX: Pentium 4/AMD64 or better

SSE2: P4/AMD64 or better

(from Wikipedia)

So, Windows 8 doesn't support 386, 486, Pentium, Pentium 2 or Pentium 3 architectures it seems, or any of the AMD equivalents.

6
0
Silver badge

Re: MS (and presumably Apple) long ago learnt the true value of drivers, API stability, etc.

Argh, that might explain why no one ever had any problems moving from XP to Vista then.

6
0
Bronze badge

Re: The joys of open software

Personally, I am finding that Win98 has better support than 2 year old EEEBuntu.

I don't know that I agree with the idea that Linux has a longer support cycle than Windows: Red Hat has a 10 year support cycle for server products (XP is already older than that), but your workstation Linux from 10 years ago is well out of support now.

0
8

Re: The joys of open software

> I can't remember when Microsoft dropped support for the 386 but it could have been as far back as Windows 95.

Windows NT4 certainly ran on the i386. My university had a few compter rooms filled with Compaq 386SX-25s with 4MB RAM.

OK, "run" isn't quite the right description. More accurately, the code executed.

4
0
Facepalm

Re: The joys of open software

I know you're a troll but... "Every major release changes everything all over again"

Surely, that's exactly the definition of a major release? If it doesnt include breaking changes, the convention is to call it a minor release or revision.

Remember that (commerical) Windows versioning is more related to the GUI than any underlying architecture.

4
0

Re: The joys of open software

Surely explicit old processor support in MS OSes is relatively moot anyway - even without things like memory size issues, few people would be likely to have the *patience* required to run such things on hardware much over a decade old.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: The joys of open software

I have the entire (i hope) source code for CP-6 version E00, on microfiche. I don't remember what the 'with source code' option on the support contract cost, but it was significant. I'm sure if we had run our factory on Microsoft WIndows, I'd have a copy of that instead.

Maybe one day I'll have the time, inclination and a microfiche reader and be abe to peruse the AARDVARK code...

anonymous, just in case.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: The joys of open software

I'd wager that 3 years from now Linux will still have better support for the 386 than MS does for DOS 6.12.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: The joys of open software

Being the head of one of the most successful and innovative open source movements in the world clearly has its freedoms. No paying customers means zero commercial obligation to keep supporting them, and one can just walk away without a care in the world. Bliss!
Yes, because all the code that's already been written that did support the 80386 has suddenly vanished for all time. Oh, no, wait. It hasn't. It's all still there. Scrub that, then.
a Linux driver dev I know moans that Linux is a bit Mozilla-ish. Every major release changes everything all over again and drivers have to be re-written, etc. etc. It's a ball ache to keep up.
"Changing everything all over again" is pretty much the definition of a major release.
MS (and presumably Apple) long ago learnt the true value of drivers, API stability, etc. Like it or loathe it, the fact that Windows XP has been maintained all this time, still works, and so forth is fairly impressive and has meant that many paying customers have stuck with MS.
Windows XP has been about for what, 11 years or so, and Microsoft are going to be pulling support for it Real Soon Now. Linux has been around since 1991, and every version ever released is still available. For £0, and with commented Source Code and modification rights.

Binary compatibility across releases was deliberately never a design goal of Linux. This was a deliberate decision: binary compatibility can potentially mean having to support things that, with the benefit of hindsight, turn out to have been stupid decisions. Having to recompile applications (or download new, pre-compiled versions from a trusted source) is ultimately less bother for users than security holes you could get a bus through sideways.

5
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: The joys of open software

Lol better yet try running win98 on 386.

0
0
Happy

Re: The joys of open software

Day 1: push the power button

Day 2, morning: enter credentials

Day 2, afternoon: open mail client

Day 3: read emails

0
2
Silver badge
Boffin

The writing was on the wall

glibc hasn't worked on i386 for some time now, a few years at least. So you were more or less stuck with µClibc on 386s.

Most embedded things that would run on a 386, could equally run on an ARM or MIPS chip, with far lower power consumption and in a much more compact form factor than any 386.

I will point out, that 386s running at 33MHz were common, and occasionally one did see a 40MHz 386 out in the wild. I've never heard of a 33mHz 386 chip — that'd be slow indeed!

Last time I ran Linux on a 386 was in 2008. I grabbed this 386DX 33MHz with 20MB RAM to use as a stand-in for an embedded device as it was the closest thing I had to hand that would match the constraints of a typical embedded system. It ran a single floppy distribution of Linux based on µClibc and Busybox, had a (crude) web interface and was intended to drive a LED sign, taking feeds via RSS (using a self-written RSS parser based on libexpat). With a bogoMIPS reading of about 6 with the Turbo button turned on, it was the slowest Linux box at the uni.

6
1
Gold badge

Re: The writing was on the wall

"..occasionally one did see a 40MHz 386 out in the wild."

It was AMD who produced a 386 clone clocking at 40MHz.

0
1

Re: The writing was on the wall

9 times out of ten that you run such old systems, it is also attached to other hardware (read: cards) and software that are hard to replace.

If the 386 was a database server it had been virtualized or migrated eons ago.

1
0

Re: The writing was on the wall

My first 386 was a 386SX-20 someone gave me.

Then, all of a sudden, a load of 386DX-40 boards WITH processor hit the market at £40. Everyone I knew bought one of those with 4MB of RAM which I think was another £120

Then we all played doom.

2
0
Pint

Re: The writing was on the wall

"I've never heard of a 33mHz 386 chip — that'd be slow indeed!"

The great thing is it makes your HDD look like L1 cache.

3
0
Gold badge
Facepalm

Re: The writing was on the wall

Downvote? Ah!

You're right of course, AMD's almighty clock-up was to 50MHz. In my defence all I have to offer is that it was a while ago.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: The writing was on the wall

"9 times out of ten that you run such old systems, it is also attached to other hardware (read: cards) and software that are hard to replace."

And such a machine would be running a modern Linux distribution? I think not.

0
0

386, what about the 4040?

Damned new fangled chippery. who needs 64 bits, 32 bit or even 8 bits. 4 bits was enough for Apollo and the LEM!

3
3
Anonymous Coward

Re: 386, what about the 4040?

"4 bits was enough for Apollo and the LEM!"

No it wasn't; the Apollo Guidance Computer had 16-bit words.

http://www.ed-thelen.org/comp-hist/vs-mit-apollo-guidance.html

This book, by its designer, is well worth reading:

http://www.amazon.com/Journey-Moon-Library-Flight-Eldon/dp/156347185X

2
0
Silver badge

Re: 386, what about the 4040?

You mean you don't have the Haynes manual for the Saturn 5?

1
0
Gold badge

Re: 386, what about the 4040?

"No it wasn't; the Apollo Guidance Computer had 16-bit words."

Strictly it was 14 bits, with 2 bits for error detection and correction (1 bit correction, 2 bit detection).

The internal architecture was bit serial clocked at 1Mhz (can't recall why as 16*32k is512k and its computing power was around 32Kips).

So 14 bit or 1 bit, depending on your PoV.

NASA quite liked the bit serial approach. Lower power, few chips -> less weight but slower (when you're trying to shoehorn a probe to Jupiter onto a relatively small rocket that makes a difference (and you get to define your own instruction set, which is pretty handy too). There's a book in the NASA history series on Spaceflight Computers. It makes interesting reading. A 386 was the upgrade to the Hubble control system.

2
0
Silver badge

By the time the 486 and Pentium came along, 386s dropped out of sight.

That is not entirely correct. People who were there, and the modern retro gaming crowd, will know that the AMD 386DX-40 was a hot seller precisely because it was faster than the 486SX. The reason being it had more cache. The Pentium of course beat them all. Here is a good writeup on the AMD386.

7
0
Silver badge

Re: By the time the 486 and Pentium came along, 386s dropped out of sight.

I was still running a network consisting of 386 and 486 machines in 1997/1998. I believe it didn't end up being replaced until 2001!

They worked well, running Windows NT4 I found.

0
0
Thumb Up

Re: By the time the 486 and Pentium came along, 386s dropped out of sight.

Thanks for that - good bit of nostalgia on the linked site.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

It was this decision, plus lack of Linux support for the 6502 that made me switch to Windows 8

I'm much happier now.

16
0
Silver badge
Happy

Re: It was this decision, plus lack of Linux support for the 6502 that made me switch to Windows 8

Buggritt. I had a similar comment lined up.

Now I'll have to get all serious and point out that a lot of SOCs have more capability than a 386 based machine.

1
0
Silver badge
Angel

Re: It was this decision, plus lack of Linux support for the 6502 that made me switch to Windows 8

HEATHEN!

WHY DID YOU NOT UPGRADE IN THE ONE TRUE WAY TO A LISA?

1
0
Silver badge

C'mon own up

Who the fuck still wants to own and run Linux on a 386. I can't even imagine any reasonable nostalgique for doing so.

I learned assembler on a 386 but what would I accomplish by firing it up now, christ were talking 20ish years ago.

Linus is perfectly correct in abandoning old archaich code that does nothing positive for anyone, anymore.

How many of you keep your spare parts from your 20 year old Ford Escorts ? They are not really very uswefull today are they. ( Except for hoping to flog them to some antique Ford Escort nut)....

FFS, lets move on.

0
0
MJI
Silver badge

Re: C'mon own up

Nothing wrong with a pre 1981 Escort especially with a BDA or Pinto in it.

After that crap.

Last were abbysmal according to Top Gear, and is the worst car I have driven.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: C'mon own up

I've got a garage full of Mk1/2 escorts bits and pieces (well, engines, gearboxes, radiators, steering racks, axles etc)- very popular in kit cars and Locosts, and in the Historic Rallying scene.

A decent 1600 Xflow is worth decent money nowadays!

You should have said Austin Maxi.

1
0
Silver badge
Alert

Re: C'mon own up

I think the right question is "Who the fuck still wants to own and run the latest Linux kernel on a 386". For which I cannot offer any good answer.

The obvious answer to the question as posed, is anyone who has a large investment in a piece of hardware that's still useful and which would be very expensive to replace, which is controlled by an embedded 386 PC that runs linux. I don't have to look after any lab equipment that runs Linux. I do know of two pieces of lab equipment that still run Windows 3.1, and a couple more locked to Windows NT4. When I can no longer fix the computer, the bill for a modern replacement will be five, maybe six, figures.

0
0
Silver badge

Intel NetPortExpress

I have an Intel NetportExpress. It's the only thing I still own that has a 386 processor in it (and that's a 386SL - I know, because I cracked it open to have a look). And I doubt it runs Linux (I think it might be VxWorks but haven't bothered to look - it "just works" and has done for years).

It networks a parallel port laser printer that you can't buy any more (Samsung ML-4500) which lets you use any toner in its refillable cartridges (until their attached drums wear out, when it's about £20 for a new cartridge + drum). I've had the same setup for so long, I've never had to add another printer on my home network.

Though, it's a bit annoying because Windows 7 x64 doesn't seem to support the drivers for the printer (32-bit version works fine). There's probably a workaround that involves some sort of compatibility mode, but to be honest once I get to that point, I'll throw it onto a Linux machine as a CUPS printer and have done with it.... and then the last 386 in the house will be put into retirement.

Not surprised, not shocked, not affected. I doubt whether anyone is. I got rid of my last 386 desktop machine something like 10+ years ago and that had been obsolete for a while, and run into the ground, and went to be a games machine for my cousin even after that. And embedded programmers have their own problems, and need to fix them themselves (if that means using an old kernel or patching the functionality back, or using a different chip, then they will).

The oldest PC I have in the house now is something like a Pentium 133 laptop. Probably, what 3 generations above the 386? And that's never going to come off what it's currently running because of the problems of doing so (it is quite hilarious to have a ThinkPad that old, though, that was thrown into a skip nearly 8 years ago, have a PCMCIA card shoved into it and join a 802.11g network as if it was any other machine - and it still has one of nicest "feels" to using it of any machine I've ever owned).

2
0

Re: Intel NetPortExpress

"Though, it's a bit annoying because Windows 7 x64 doesn't seem to support the drivers for the printer (32-bit version works fine). "

Have you tried a generic PCL driver (not from a manufacturer but from a similar era PC - e.g. drive it with a HP Laserjet 4 driver)? This is what we do in work to get the various archaic Samsung and Brother printers that customers have and that will not die to work on x64 Windows.

0
0
Silver badge

DX vs SX

IIRC the 386 DX flew... the 386 SX wasn't really much faster than the 286 clock for clock, but could usually be found at slightly higher clock speeds. Pretty sure it wasn't just the lack of an integrated maths co-processor either.

0
0

Re: DX vs SX

The 386 DX didn't have a math co-processor, difference between 386DX and SX was the size of the buses, 16-bit data bus and 24-bit memory bus, as opposed to the 32bit buses on the DX.

It was the 486SX that lacked the math co-processor of it's DX sibling.

4
0

And I remember...

combing my hair with a discarded 386 intel chip. The connectors worked like a fine comb!

1
0
Silver badge
Joke

Re: And I remember...

"

And I remember...

combing my hair with a discarded 386 intel chip. The connectors worked like a fine comb!

"

Hope it got the bugs out !

4
0
Silver badge
Angel

Re: And I remember...

I at least hope you earthed yourself first...

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Meh

It was well over 10 years ago that we were forced to move from 386 to 486 on our embedded systems, as Intel was clawing back all the remaining 386 chips from manufacturers because NASA needed them for some project involving compatibility with existing system.

1
0
Headmaster

33 mHZ? Even Colossus ran at a few kHz. You probably meant 33 MHz.

4
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.