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SubjectRE: Old platforms: bring out your dead
Date
From: Arnd Bergmann
> Sent: 09 January 2021 21:53
>
> On Sat, Jan 9, 2021 at 6:56 AM Willy Tarreau <w@1wt.eu> wrote:
> >
> > On Fri, Jan 08, 2021 at 11:55:06PM +0100, Arnd Bergmann wrote:
> > > * 80486SX/DX: 80386 CPUs were dropped in 2012, and there are
> > > indications that 486 have no users either on recent kernels.
> > > There is still the Vortex86 family of SoCs, and the oldest of those were
> > > 486SX-class, but all the modern ones are 586-class.
> >
> > These also are the last generation of fanless x86 boards with 100% compatible
> > controllers, that some people have probably kept around because these don't
> > age much and have plenty of connectivity. I've used an old one a few times
> > to plug in an old floppy drive, ISA SCSI controllers to access an old tape
> > drive and a few such things. That doesn't mean that it's a good justification
> > not to remove them, what I rather mean is that *if* there is no benefit
> > in dropping them maybe we can keep them. On the other hand, good luck for
> > running a modern OS on these, when 16MB-32MB RAM was about the maximum that
> > was commonly found by then (though if people kept them around that's probably
> > because they were well equipped, like that 64MB 386DX I'm having :-)).
>
> I think there were 486s with up to 256MB, which would still qualify as barely
> usable for a minimal desktop, or as comfortable for a deeply embedded
> system. The main limit was apparently the cacheable RAM, which is limited
> by the amount of L2 cache -- you needed a rare 1MB of external L2-cache to
> have 256MB of cached RAM, while more common 256KB of cache would
> be good for 64MB. Vortex86SX has no FPU or L2 cache at all, but supports
> 256MB of DDR2.

There are also some newer (well less than 30 year old) cpus that are
basically 486 but have a few extra instructions - probably just cpuid
and (IIRC) rdtsc.
Designed for low power embedded use they won't ever have been suitable
for a desktop - but are probably fast enough for some uses.
I'm not sure how much keeping 486 support actually costs, 386 was a
PITA - but the 486 fixed most of those issues.

David

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