RISC Workstations of the 1990s

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Inspired by the amazing system collection and blog of Sophie Haskins aka cronmom I’ve been trying to figure out what workstations I have (and what I want) from the classic RISC workstation era. I have a couple of them from the Nextslab all the way to the svelte DEC Alpha XP1000. My recently acquired SGI Indigo has really spurred me on to sort out the systems I want and git rid of those that I’ll just never use. I’ll have more to say about the Indigo and what I’ve been doing to get it up and running with IRIX in following posts.

The below diagram is some informal research I’ve been doing while poking around wikipedia and trying to line up the times (1990s) and the major workstations that blossomed in that decade. In the turn of the century two things emerged and then converged that promulgated the demise of the RISC Workstation: the Intel x86 CPU and the Linux operating system (with it’s attendant GNU tools and utilities). Not only were the unique silicon architectures ground up by the relentless Lintel forward progression, but the unique UNIX flavors driving that exotic silicon also fell to the wayside as the costs of the systems spiraled up and up relative to Lintel.

What we had in the 1990s:

  • Ultrix
  • SunOS
  • Tru64
  • Irix
  • HPUX
  • AIX
  • Solaris

Now it’s limited to just various flavors of Linux.

In order to get my head around some of the prime 1990 workstations (HP and IBM are very confusing) I put together this diagram/mind-map. IBM and HP had massive numbers of systems durning this decade. Even though Apple and Amiga were on the borderline of UNIX style workstations, I included them here because Amiga did have AMIX – a System V variant for the 3000 and Apple had AUX on the IIFX and later ‘030 Macs. These were relatively expensive systems for the time.

Updated Map of RISC:

Workstations v1b


Amiga’s AMIX

Apple’s AUX


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