Seeking immediate rescue of full-rack SGI ONYX near Northbrook, IL

Swift Griggs swiftgriggs at
Tue Apr 19 13:58:52 CDT 2016

On Tue, 19 Apr 2016, Ian Finder wrote:
> They're something splendidly entertaining about a big honkin' graphical
> workstation that you can roll up to and poke around the GUI on.

No doubt.  The main thing to me is that they aren't "boring" business
machines.  They were made to do fun creative things on them.  SGI was also
about the only company who, at the time, made a Unix variant that cared
about graphics and sound.  I like to compare them with machines of the same
age (ie..  within a few months) from Sun.  Let's see, I have $2500 and it's
1993 or so.  Do I want a SPARCstation IPX with 8-bit graphics and mono sound
or an SGI Indy - no freakin' contest whatsoever in my mind.

I wrote Sun off after they turned their backs on SunOS.  Unfortunately, I
had to work with their gear and live through e-cache errors and the whole
sordid extended death ending with the ignominious demise of being bought by
one of your software vendors.  Ugh.  Of course, watching SGI under Rick
Belluzo (I hated that guy) wasn't much easier.  "Ohhh, I'm ex-Microsoft so
let's make Windows NT workstations." Ugh, Puh!, Bleh....  grrreeeeaaat idea,
guys.  I wish the board could be retroactively fired for that.  I guess some
folks feel the same way about DEC under Robert Palmer.

> split phase, and I love showing people Quake, Maya and Photoshop on this
> giant behemoth from 1993.

Don't forget all the awesome texture demos you could do with those machines
that had enough TRAM.

> 12 i860s to run the graphics! How absurd!

Those processors showed up in the weirdest places.  I remember seeing them
on DEC SCSI controllers quite a bit, too.

> If we're rambling about SGIs now, my all time fav.  is the Indigo 2 R1000
> Max Impact.  You see one, and it looks normal enough, but when you pop
> that cover- there is so much logic packed into that box!  It's one of the
> densest machines I've ever encountered...

I had one of those for years and used it as my main workstation for 2-3
years.  You are right about the density.  I know the SGI Indy also had some
ridiculous number of PCB layers, too.  SGI engineers must have liked to go
vertical.  My fav (by a nose hair) is the O2.  The UMA and CRM graphics were
revolutionary at the time and still rock rather hard (1GB of 24-bit video
memory in 1996 anyone? Sun? HP? Didn't think so...). 

About the only thing in the 1990's that had the media grunt of an SGI was a
NeXT Cube with the fancy DSP board.  However, they didn't have enough decent
software for it.  It was just too $$$.  Macs had plenty of software, but the
graphics options often sucked (especially for video) until 3rd party vendors
started releasing cheap capture boards in the late 90's. The Quadra 840AV and
660AV were the only exceptions to what I considered a fairly mundane run of
machines. At least they weren't beige, though.  


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