An Open Source PowerPC Notebook Edges Closer

Back in 2020, we reported on the effort to create a brand new open-source laptop platform using the PowerPC architecture. At the time they had big plans and a PCB design, and we’re very pleased to report that in the intervening two years they’ve progressed to the point of now having some real prototypes ready for testing.

Some might question why this should be necessary, after all there are plenty of laptops and more than one commonly available processor platform. But that’s to miss the point of open source hardware, that it’s as much about plurality as functionality. But if you’ve only encountered the PowerPC architecture in slightly older Macs and some game consoles, what’s the chip powering this device? The answer is, not one of those venerable chips, but the NXP T2080, a 1.8 GHz quad-core device that boasts a respectable power for a laptop.

There is of course many a hurdle still to be crossed between prototype and final device, but given the challenge of a functioning laptop it’s impressive for them to have reached this milestone at all. We look forward to seeing further iterations, and maybe, just maybe, a finished device one day. Our original coverage is here.

21 thoughts on “An Open Source PowerPC Notebook Edges Closer

    1. Not really, thanks to using DDR3 RAM, an MXM Radeon, and so on, but that’s not the point. The idea behind the laptop is just to have an open-hardware laptop with ideally as much free firmware as possible in order to have a mobile base to expand the PowerPC ecosystem from.

  1. PowerPC is my favorite architecture. Its just well thought out and not cobbled together like arm. The memory management was rather flexible and the ability to pin TLBs on some processors bosted performance in some applications quite a bit. The BAT registers have so much potential too.

    1. I would not say ARM is cobbled together. It is more a 6502 extended to 32 bits (now 64 and with cobbling added).

      There is a fantastic object oriented Forth for PPC called Mops – Mike’s Own Programing System. Reading the user manual shows a really great way to do OOP.

      1. “Tell me you know nothing about ARM and 6502 without telling me you know nothing about ARM and 6502”. What’s similar? The lack of registers? The focus on zero page variables? The specialized registers? The barrel shifter? The conditional execution?

        The 68K looks more like a 6502 than ARM does.

        ARM was not cobbled together, but it wasn’t designed by a committee like POWER was, so it’s going to look a bit different.

        My only real complaint about POWER was the mnemonics they chose for the instructions. Could they have been more cryptic and less descriptive?

    2. What aspect of ARM is “cobbled together”?

      And while 6502 likely influence the original designers (when ARM stood for Acorn RISC Machine), it’s definitely not a 6502 chip extended to 32-bits….

    3. I built a couple (Pretty terrible in current day standards) PPC boards with a handwritten in assembly FORTH micro OS and I really fell in love with the PPC architecture and opcodes after spending a long time creating 68K boards. It’s just so uniform and powerful, having 3 operands in virtually every instruction and 8 selectable condition code registers was amazing when making an OS. Unfortunately it got tough getting anything but 100+ of the chips at a time, so it became impossible to make your own boards as a hobbyist and I had to call it quits.

  2. I don’t understand and the article doesn’t elaborate. Where are they planning on placing this pcb?
    I thought the idea was to use old PowerPc Mac shells and interface with all the parts but with a new board.

    1. Literally the first sentence: “Back in 2020, we reported on the effort to create a brand new open-source laptop platform using the PowerPC architecture.”

      So the answer is the pcb would go in a custom laptop case.

  3. Is it true that NXP (Freescale) have no new products in their QorIQ (PowerPC) line of products ? (search for “End of Life” and “QorIQ”) Because if that is true then the only people I know with new PowerPC chips in the pipeline are IBM and LibreSoC.

    NASA are planning to migrate from PowerPC to RISC-V over the next 3 years (Microchip Technology Inc. to develop a high-performance spaceflight computing processor, using RISC-V IP licensed from SiFive). Not a good sign for PowerPC which has been the to mars, the sun, …

  4. Super excited to more non-x86 Linux laptop options.

    In February 2001 bought an original Apple TiBook PowerBook G4 (Titanium body) about a month after the release solely to run Linux on it. Installed Yellow Dog Linux, applied a few kernel patches, created a kernel patch to handle the display size (apparently this was the first 1152×768 display supported by Linux) and it worked like a charm and served me well for years (played DVDs, FireWire worked, I did video editing on it, 3D graphics, CAD, coding, and just general day to day use).

    I also had a first gen (July 2000) Power Mac G4 Cube which also ran Linux. I acquired this for a project to port a certain popular brand’s version of Linux to the IBM Power4 architecture, cheapest way of providing compatible test equipment was a Power Mac G4 Cube.

    Running x86 kind of feels like a necessary evil these days. I’m really looking forward to the day my desktop machine is running a 1024 core ARM CPU.

  5. …due to fact, that our site is often offLine, coz of updating & someTimes even
    older browser dont openIt, here is first link from article, that should “work” :) …:

    yeah, the Journey was hellOfaRide, when Roberto Inocenti put first article on his
    Delirio Tecnologico Blog…& started OSHW avalanche… i think in 2014… :)

    so roughly, idea 2014, Project in 2015 started & Power Progress Community nonProfit Foundation
    in 2016 (which later beCame memeber of OpenPower, which with The Linux Foundation owns
    Open Sourced PowerPC/Power PowerISA Patent Rights now)… a lot of history & clarification
    is covered in these presentations from many FreeLibreOpen SW HW & AmigaOne (read
    Power6 & 7, we build Power8) events…:

    …although, in early stage, we considered Dome ddrFormFactor serverOnChip SoC of bigBlue
    (which is used in sqareKilometerArray of radioTelescopes), as a foundation for our mobo,
    we choosed aCube (besides A-Eon, one of 2 firms that build Power6 & 7 AmigaOnes, as well
    as PPC SOCs), as our main outSourcer & builder, so the notebook will be quadC0re,
    octaThread, & capable of both endianess, as all Power7+,8,9 & beyond ISAs CPU archs,
    & support AltiVec(tor) Unit / Velocity Engine, so VMX VSX is available, but only in eg.
    Debian GNU/LinuxPPC64 endianBig byteOrdering scheme (older, & onlyOne possible on Power7 &
    beLow, 6, G5 (64bit), G4 (which is present in iterations of AmigaOne hw also, later
    A-One hw ending in Power6 & 7)

    intelByteOrdering is more atractive for c0ders & developers / testers, coz sourceC0de needs
    little to none intervention, due to fact that it is primarily targeted to x86 ISA CPU arch

    interestingly, Intel added 512 bit vector unit 26 years late :)

    the problem we are now facing, after not the LibreBoot, not C0reBoot, but Gnu uBoot
    firmware & deviceTree will be written, is that Debian in Rel 9 ditched endianBig from
    Stable Release, & Debian 10 Buster egzists only in endianLittle / intelByteOrdering for
    PPC64, rendering AltiVecTor Unit / VelocityEngine unUsable, coz same register set is
    used for byteOrder mangling… :/

    regarding OS-es & userLand apps, there are some ideas to crossPort all popular enthusiastic
    Platforms as well, like AmigaOS 4.1 upDate 6 / FinalEdition EnhancSw, MorphOS 3.16, ArOS,
    variuous system5 (openSolaris, indiana, illumos) & bsd unixes like Net, Open & FreeBSD, MacOS X
    OpenDarwin (Fink apt dpkg port is cool), realTime OS-es, egzotics like Haiku OpenBeOS/Zeta
    (which initially was made for PPC), … why not Atari FreeMiNT (Floss & bsd based GEM/TOS) :) 🐧



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