Linux 6.0 Drops Support For Old NEC VR4100 MIPS CPUs Found In The IBM WorkPad & More

Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Kernel on 6 August 2022 at 05:49 AM EDT. 11 Comments
Support for old NEC VR4100 CPUs based on the MIPS R4000 core is being removed with the Linux 6.0 kernel leading to devices like the old IBM WorkPad Z50 no longer being supported.

With Linux 6.0, the VR41xx processor support and platforms based on it are being removed. Clearing out the old VR41xx MIPS code frees up over four thousand lines of code from the kernel. Support for the VR41xx hardware is being cleared out finally in 2022 since no active developers have any of the hardware any longer. Thus it's impossible to maintain with not being able to verify it still even works with modern kernels, etc. Anyone still rocking the hardware from the 90's will have to stick to using older Linux kernels if using the devices at all.

Among the notable hardware at the time using a VR41xx series processor was the IBM WorkPad Z50 as a sub-notebook portable device from the late 90's with a VR4121 running at 131MHz with 16MB of RAM and a 640 x 480 display that at the time was shipped with Windows CE.

The CASIO E-10/15/55/65, TANBAC TB022X, and VICTOR MP-C303 / C304 are other systems losing out on mainline Linux kernel support as a result.

Aside from gutting out the VR41xx support, the MIPS changes for Linux 6.0 do introduce support for the Netgear WNR3500L v2, a wireless 802.11n Gigabit router still available in retail channels. This router with a Broadcom BCM47186 500MHz SoC and 128MB of RAM is much more powerful than the portable devices of the VR41xx days.

The other MIPS changes for Linux 6.0 amount to bug fixes with the full list of patches being available via this pull request.
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