SGI Reality Monster drives/OS?

Richard legalize at
Fri Apr 20 17:48:46 CDT 2007

In article <10e701c78396$308d5410$f0fea8c0 at alpha>,
    "Alexandre Souza" <alexandre-listas at>  writes:

>     Richard, talking about graphics, how are the graphics subsystem 
> capabilities of these machines, compared with modern PCs with top-of-line 
> graphic cards?

Like most things in graphics, "it depends" ;-).

PCs probably can't even come close to the RealityMonster machine.
There is also the bandwidth of the I/O system and busses to consider
when comparing to a PC.  Once you get the whole scene loaded into a PC
card it can scream, but if the scene has to be paged in to the 3D card
on a PC, then you're at the mercy of your system bus, clock rate and
disk rates.  There are also graphics features that these workstations
have that aren't well supported on PCs until very recently.  Things
like volume rendering.  Then there's the fact that the higher end SGI
cards can do 12-bits per channel, for 48-bit RGB output, allowing for
extremely high quality graphics rendering.

The last time that I personally programmed an SGI box was 1997, so its
been a while for me.  However, SGI was largely driven by scientific
visualization, simulation and the entertainment industry (read: Hollywood)
while the PC market is driven by gaming.  These are very different
markets.  In the PC market, its hard to get a hardware vendor
interested in your requested feature if its not going to be used in
games.  Then again, the PC cards are becoming so programmable that
nobody requests specific features anymore, they just request more
bandwidth, more memory and more programmability.  Most of the SGI
hardware engineers ended up at NVidia, so its no surprise that the PC
cards are displacing more and more SGI machines.  The one big
exception that I know of is Kurt Akeley, who is an SGI founded, and is
now heading up the graphics research group for Microsoft in Beijing.

SGI machines of this variety do seem to be increasingly rare.  They
don't show up on ebay much because they require freight shipping.  I
more often see parts for these machines showing up on ebay.  They
don't show up on dovebid much either -- these machines and an Onyx
that I bought earlier are the first that have shown up on dovebid
since I've been monitoring.
"The Direct3D Graphics Pipeline" -- DirectX 9 draft available for download

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