LGR – SGI Indigo2 Computer System Review


[typing] Silicon Graphics Incorporated, or SGI, is one of those computer companiesthat I always heard about growing up but never really knew much about.

I mostly remember them being involvedwith Nintendo in the early- to mid-'90s, with SGI's machines aiding in the development ofDonkey Kong Country's pre-rendered 3D graphics and the company helpingdevelop the chipset for the Ultra 64, which became the Nintendo 64.

There's a whole lot more to thestory of SGI than that, of course, more than enough for its own dedicated video, but for this one, let's start in the year 1991.

This was at the middle of SGI's golden age of being a market leader ingraphics workstation innovation.

They served a niche professional market, sure, but it was a lucrative one, making them over $900 million annually, and their machines ruled supreme ineverything from computer aided design to blockbuster movie production.

Films like Terminator 2,Jurassic Park and The Abyss would not have turned out the waythey did without SGI tech being available.

And in 1991, their Indigo computer was one of the single-mostcapable desktop workstations around, with a 33 MHz RISC CPU and a 236 MB hard disk drive, all for just shy of $10,000.

While the Indigo saw plenty offeature innovations and upgrades that more than tripled its capabilities eventually, January of 1993 saw the introduction of the Indigo 2, providing users a new workstation solution altogether.

These not only came with a more compact,brightly colored teal case design, but featured upgrades to theCPU, the graphics subsystem and generally awesome stuff all over the place.

This came at a cost, of course.

It was roughly $30,000 for a modelwith a 100 MHz R4000 SC processor and 96 MB of RAM.

Also, don't confuse it with the SGI Indy, which was released a few months later asa cost-reduced version of the original Indigo.

And lastly, there was an upgraded Indigo 2 in 1995 that came with a purple case, known as the Impact, which saw its own slew of alternate releases, upgrades and variations.

This was the king of desktop workstationsuntil the introduction of the SGI Octane at the end of 1996.

But that's getting beyond thescope of this particular video.

The rest of this will be focusedon the Indigo 2 Impact from 1995, which I got for the delightful cost of free! That's because this isn't my machine at all and is instead on loan to me from anawesome viewer of mine named Terrence.

Thanks, Terrence! You're far too trusting! As for what you can expectto pay for one of these, though, the answer varies as wildly as thenumber of Indigo 2 permutations that exist.

On the current collectors market, expect topay anywhere from $90 for a low-end Indigo 2 on up to $2,300 or more for atricked-out, purple Indigo 2 Impact.

And this particular model I haveright here is one of the latter.

What makes it so special? Well as you might have noticed, this isn't just an Indigo 2 Impact but one that is known as the Impact 10000, or "Max Impact.

" That basically means it costs a ton of money not just today but especially back when it was new.

This particular configurationtheoretically could have cost $86,000 or so in 1995, and that's *with* an academic discount.

I say "theoretically" because thisthing is boasting certain hardware that didn't readily exist in '95, which we'll get to shortly.

So, yeah, this is not the kind of computer you would have seen at a Circuit City up against Packard Bells and Compaqs.

SGI workstations like the Indigo 2are truly something special, as evidenced by the case design alone.

Not only is it a gorgeous shade of purple– one might even say indigo– but it has a case that just screams "creative" to me.

It's got this door on the front that opens up effortlessly to reveal its optical disc drive, and a recessed power button, inducing a state of equal parts pleasure and powerful capability when pushed.

And far be it from SGI to gowith a standard lock and key to keep it from being tampered with, THIS has a solid metal security bar, locking into place with all the finesse oftaking a sledgehammer to a bonsai tree! And if you prefer your locked upworkstations in a more vertical fashion, it comes with matching mounting stands to help it stand up tall and proud.

That's if you want to risk lifting it, since it weighs in ata whopping 45 pounds (20.

41 kg), being constructed of what feels like solid granite.

Speaking of granite, that's the official color scheme of the PS/2 compatible keyboard and mouse.

The keyboard feels.

all right, but it's nothing special,just rubber domes underneath and a typical keyboard layout.

Same with the mouse, it's simply average! Not exactly what I would expect for acomputer that cost nearly as much as a Porsche 911 twenty-something years ago.

Around back, you have a rather typical-looking I/O plate with integrated ports alongside a few option boards.

Power supply, keyboard and mouse, RS-422 serial, AUI and 10BASE-T Ethernet, parallel, SCSI-2, audio input and output ports, and a 13W3 connector for analog RGB monitors and a DE-9 port for 3D stereo glasses.

While I don't have the glasses, I do have a monitor that works with it, even if it's not what it would have had back in the '90s.

This is an NEC MultiSync LCD 1860NX, which is the only monitor I havethat works with the Indigo 2 due to its sync-on-green display requirement.

And even then, I still have touse a 13W3-to-VGA converter.

And even that's been modified to work with thisparticular monitor and computer combination.

Otherwise, I don't get a signal.

The complexities continue within the case itself, which opens up with no tools required and houses tons of technical titillation that's totally outside of my realm of expertise.

Still, I couldn't resist showing offwhat a sweet-looking computer this is, inside and out, and at least go over some of the specs of this beast.

At the core of the whole thing is the CPU a MIPS R10000 running at 195 MHz in this case, with an R10010 floating point chip alongside.

There's also a ridiculous 1 GBof RAM installed on this machine, which would have been astronomical in 1995, seeing as the largest RAM kitavailable from SGI was 128 MB, and that alone cost nearly 10 grand! The other huge chunk of costly tech inside here is the graphics card setup, which consists of the three-board Max Impact chipset, with a texture RAM option installed.

This brings the texture memory to 8 MB, with an additional 24 megs available, for things like stencil and z-buffers and video output DRAM.

This provided exceptional graphics output for the time, utilizing 12 bits per channel and 48-bit RGBA color, at resolutions up to 1280×1024, with a 1600×1200 maximum.

The sound capabilities aren't bad, either, with a combined 16-bit DAC and ADC capable of reproducing 48 KHz sound, with recording and playback andall the stuff you'd expect, really.

[tinny/synth harp "startup" sound](It also has an internal speaker!) And as for storage, this machine has a 150 GB 15000 RPM SCSI-2 hard drive with room for a second one, if need be.

And as for external media, the only drive on offer hereis a Teac 32X SCSI CD-ROM, which is fine, since these were made tobe hooked up to a network at all times and most files were shared that way.

Now on to the software, which is.

Well, it's workstation stuff, what do you expect? It runs SGI's own version of Unix, known as IRIX, and it is quite the experience,if you're mostly familiar with PC operating environments like I am.

This is IRIX 64, version 6.


And for the '90s, this is some delightfully powerful stuff, being purpose-built from the ground up towork with SGI architecture in particular.

The result is a very stable and usable graphical interface that feels slick to use and a command line interfacethat lets you dive into the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts stuff when you need to, which is gonna be rather often.

Combined with the technicalabilities of the hardware, it's a bit like using a Linux machine fromten years into the future from when it launched.

[Alexis "Lex" Murphy (Jurassic Park)]:"It's a Unix system.

I know this!" [Lex; off-screen]:"Th-this is it!" "This might be the right file.

" [in-film beeping] And that's right! It wasn't just some made-up software for the movie.

The 3D file manager from Jurassic Park is a real piece of Unix software known as FSN, or Fusion.

Ahh, talk about living out a childhood fantasy.

I don't even know what I'm doing, but I'm havin' fun.

But as useful and productiveas some of the applications are, when it comes to games, the Indigo 2 is lacking in a big way and, really, you can't fault it for that.

This was a high-end workstationthat was never meant for public use and as far as I can tell, there werenever *any* games actually sold for it.

Again, it makes sense, but beyonda few demos and source ports, there's not much here in terms of gaming, even if the hardware is more than capable in theory.

Finally, you might be wonderingabout emulation options, and.

well, so am I! While there are quite a few emulators for Linux that aim to emulate certain MIPS,chipsets and IRIX installations, I'm not aware of any that fullymimic the capabilities of an Indigo 2, and can't find much in terms of active development happening with that goal in mind.

And of course, the question becomes: Is it worth buying an SGI Indigo 2 or something similar in that range of workstations? And.

Well, I'd say you'd have to be a very special, unique blend of crazy geek in order to want to spend the timeand money on one of these, but that's not necessarily a bad thing if you're that type of person.

I'm just not.

Now that's not to say that I don't think it's really cool, and that I wouldn't want to have one,because I would want to have one of these things.

If anything, just 'cause of that cool case design, and the sort of pedigree thatit comes with as far as being related to different things going on in the gaming industry and a little bit of movies and all sorts of creative and professional type work.

It was just something that was out of reach of consumers back in the day.

And in a way, it still kind of is.

So, it puts you in this elite-ish club of owners of SGI machines if you were to grab one, back then and now, of course.

But, for me, that stuff only goes so far, at least for the type of collectingthat I do and the type of computers that I look out for.

And a lot of that does have to do with gaming.

What else would I ever do with it? If this were mine, not much.

It would probably pretty muchjust sit there looking pretty, and, um, for some machines I canjustify that, like the Commodore PET.

But for something like this? Not so much, especially because to get it to really do all thestuff that I showed you here, you're gonna be shelling out an awful lot of money for a fully spec-ed out machine.

So, uh.

yeah, probably not.

Historical, yes, but maybe not the best thing to justgo out and purchase on a whim.

On the other hand if you stillwant one, I do not blame you at all.

And might I recommend SGI Depot, ran by Ian Mapleson whohelped me a *ton* with this video.

In fact, he's got a bunch of great stuff for sale, and a ton of information on SGI machines.

Thank you very much to Ian forhelping making this video possible.

And thanks again to Terrencefor loaning me his machine.

And if you enjoyed this video, then perhaps you'd like to stick around and see some of my others onother computers and other things.

New videos every Monday and Friday, so stay tuned for those if you'd like.

And as always, thank you very much for watching.