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Thread: Indy: A better starting point for SGI?

  1. #1
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    Default Indy: A better starting point for SGI?

    So, following up on my previous discussion concerning deskside Onyxes I've asked around a bit and feel a Indy might be a much better entry point for SGI kit in terms of affordability and findability - it's also still got the Nintendo 64 adjacency that I liked the Onyx for, too. I think I might track one down soon - you guys' thoughts? I've already got a NEC MultiSync that'd do fine, so all I'd really need is the machine itself and a 13W3 adapter.

  2. #2

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    A friend loaned me an Octane 2, asking me to refurbish it for sale. After installing 3D programs like Lightwave, it reminds me, visually, a lot of N64 games... murky, and hard to look at.

    I would think of an SGI as an item to be appreciated for its industrial design aesthetic value rather than as a functioning device. An Indy would look great on your shelf, but would it be better, then, to find the granite keyboard and mouse, and an SGI flatscreen to make it complete? Especially if one were to fire up Softimage with a scene from Spider-Man or something period appropriate as a display. An art piece.

    I would like to see someone adapt an O2 to actually make toast, however.

  3. #3
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    If your only reason for wanting an SGI machine is because SGI technology contributed to the design of the N64 I kind of wonder if you might decide in the end that sometimes you're better off not meeting your heroes. So far as I'm aware there is no off-the-shelf SGI workstation that's going to "play" much like an N64, IE, they're not exactly known for gaming excitement.

    Re: the Indy in particular, so far as I'm aware (and I'll preface by saying I'm by no means an expert on Indys; I did/technically still own one, a plain vanilla R4400 model) only had one hardware accelerated graphics option, XZ, and it was actually slower than the dumb framebuffer graphics when the latter was paired with an R5000 CPU. The N64 development systems included a unique card with an N64 graphics processor on it, which sadly is arguably more capable than XZ because XZ has no texture support whatsoever.

    Honestly an Indy or most other contemporary SGI machines are probably just going to come across to you as slow and unimpressive proto-Linux boxes (as my Indy did in 2001) unless you're *very* careful to judge them by the standards of their era and restrict them to running the few still-kind-of-impressive demos that exist to show off their strengths.

  4. #4
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    Really I'm more just interested in the novel hardware (Particularly the graphics options on the higher end offerings), IRIX, and some of the more interesting case designs -- The U64 adjacency is gravy next to those. In a broader sense I'm also considering dabbling in SGI stuff since I've been trying to get more non-PC stuff in my collection - I need more variety.

  5. #5
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    Definitely look somewhere other than Indy if you want interesting graphics hardware. XZ graphics are good for running some of those old solid-polygon demos that look like some of the Windows 98 screensavers and not a whole lot else.

    I again hate to sound jaded, but I would exercise caution in trying to get into collecting 90's UNIX workstation hardware for "variety's sake". In the early 'aughts I ended up with a fair selection of Sun, SGI, and other hardware (and the Indy) because a career/location change brought me into contact with people literally giving them away, and for reasons ("Jurassic Park!") I jumped at the chance to play with "real" UNIX hardware. But frankly I never could figure out any angle that made it compelling enough to keep my interest. Something that I have absolutely no doubt was totally awesome in 1994 was just modern enough to be uninteresting and slow enough to be pretty aggravating by 2002.

    (Frankly my experience with UNIX workstations is in large part why I've mostly redefined my vintage interests to cover pre-GUI/8-bit computing.)

    That said, some people love the heck out of them, so maybe you'll strike gold.

    One thing to beware of: many of these old workstations use sealed Dallas clock/NVRAM modules with built-in non-replaceable batteries, and its failure usually fouls up the machine. If you buy a machine that hasn't had it swapped out/hacked to use an external battery expect trouble.

  6. #6
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    Ah, Dallas modules. I've got some experience with those, albiet mostly PS/2 specific 1387s. Luckily, it seems like the procedure for rerouting to an external battery doesn't vary too much between models so far as I can tell...? If 1287s are a staple of SGI machines, my friend Glitch actually already makes prefabbed replacements able to take a coin cell. Regenerating boot-viable NVRAM contents could be a snag, though.

    As for platform overexposure, a good point! Realistically speaking I'd probably only want one or two SGI systems -- not necessarily something I'd go all-in on.

  7. #7

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    SGI systems had a port of Doom for them, we used to play on our Indigos and Indys. That was great fun. Once during a death match I managed to kill another player's character at a respawn location, and he keep respawning in the same spot. All I had to do was sit and wait for a few seconds and I could blast him again with the rocket launcher.

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    I cannot help because I do not own an IP22 machine; as my 50 cents, I can say that if you just want to try Irix .. well, there is an emulator that actually does work: see here for reference.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ivelegacy View Post
    if you just want to try Irix .. well, there is an emulator that actually does work: see here for reference.
    I built it and tried it, but the info is sparse and I can't figure out how to run it. I have indy_4610.zip and ip225015.zip but maybe I'm not putting them in the correct place.

  10. #10

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    If your big interest is just in giving SGI/IRIX a spin, I'd recommend the O2 - while the plastics are fragile as hell (save yourself the trouble and just buy one that's already broken,) they're small, relatively affordable, and beefier than the Indy, plus you don't need a 13W3 adapter, just a VGA monitor that can handle stripping out the sync signal from the green signal.
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