Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

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Adrenaline
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Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby Adrenaline » Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:04 am

I've been wondering for a week or so now why Silicon Graphics chose the pizza box approach for the Indigo 2 and Indy? The Indy I get since it was a low cost machine going against other machines at the time (Sun's SPARCstation, NeXT's NeXTstation, PCs etc.). But the departure from the extremely stylized and iconic Indigo for it's successor I find extremely odd. Were people at the time wanting a more practical machine they could rest a 19" CRT on their workstation? Were the stands for the Indigo 2 meant to appeal to those who didn't want to do that? And then a few years later the O2 and Octane returned to the stylized approach.
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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby jan-jaap » Sun Apr 19, 2015 12:55 pm

IIRC, there were people who placed really large CRT monitors on top of their pizzaboxes and cracked the case. Ever seen one of those 24" widescreen Sony FW900's? It weighs nearly 50kg.
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To accentuate the special identity of the IRIS 4D/70, Silicon Graphics' designers selected a new color palette. The machine's coating blends dark grey, raspberry and beige colors into a pleasing harmony. (IRIS 4D/70 Superworkstation Technical Report)

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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby Adrenaline » Sun Apr 19, 2015 3:19 pm

Couldn't imagine hauling a FW900. I had 19" iiyama visionmaster crt monitors back in the day and yes I hauled them to lan parties back in high school - nearly dropped them going up and down the stairs every other weekend.

I was just curious, especially for the folks on here who were actively using workstations back in 1992/1993, I was simply too young.
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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby sgifanatic » Sun Apr 19, 2015 4:23 pm

I don't know the reasons why, but I would guess at atleast two:

First, the term pizza box was almost a category descriptor at the time, thanks to Sun. NeXT did the unconventional cube and then moved to the pizza box design also. I think Unix workstation vendors felt they needed a "pizza box" to be in the pizza box workstation business. This form factor, prior to xU-standardized rack mounted equipment, also allowed for greater density when placed in racks.

Second, the Indigo2 implemented EISA and since this bus originated in the PC world, the most convenient way to accommodate EISA card dimensions was to go for a PC style chassis form-factor. Which is roughly what the Indigo2 was.

And yes, placing the monitor on top of the desktop case could have been a third reason. It makes logical sense.
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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby guardian452 » Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:00 pm

I had a compaq PC which was somewhat similar to indigo2 internally. Mainboard with a riser in the middle for pci/eisa. It was fairly common in the mid 90s.

Besides, the pizzabox form factor such as indy makes sense when you think that the largest component is the mainboard/planer PCB, so the box should be relatively flat too.

This form factor, prior to xU-standardized rack mounted equipment, also allowed for greater density when placed in racks.
When are *all* workstations going to having the cpus and gpus mounted to the same giant heatsink with one bigass fan to cool it all? (ala trash can) It doesn't make much sense anymore to do it the old way...

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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby Krokodil » Mon Apr 20, 2015 12:36 am

jan-jaap wrote:IIRC, there were people who placed really large CRT monitors on top of their pizzaboxes and cracked the case. Ever seen one of those 24" widescreen Sony FW900's? It weighs nearly 50kg.


Sometimes I see machines on fleabay, with a kink in the top of the case, where the previous owners have apparently thrown something heavy on the top and crushed it.
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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby Adrenaline » Mon Apr 20, 2015 11:24 am

sgifanatic wrote:I don't know the reasons why, but I would guess at atleast two:

First, the term pizza box was almost a category descriptor at the time, thanks to Sun. NeXT did the unconventional cube and then moved to the pizza box design also. I think Unix workstation vendors felt they needed a "pizza box" to be in the pizza box workstation business. This form factor, prior to xU-standardized rack mounted equipment, also allowed for greater density when placed in racks.

Second, the Indigo2 implemented EISA and since this bus originated in the PC world, the most convenient way to accommodate EISA card dimensions was to go for a PC style chassis form-factor. Which is roughly what the Indigo2 was.

And yes, placing the monitor on top of the desktop case could have been a third reason. It makes logical sense.


Great point about EISA, up until 1994 my house only had pizzabox style PCs (Tandy 1000, Packard Bell 386 etc.). Never thought about the transition point in the PC world to Towers - probably helped drive the return to non-pizzabox style with the O2 and Octane with both adopting PCI card support.

It's a shame there probably isn't much documentation on the initial Indigo 2 design meetings to read other possible approaches (maybe a larger Indigo style with the slide out boards like what would return in the O2/Octane). Or maybe keeping the Indy as the pizzabox and Indigo 2 as the more unique machine since it had a premium over the Indy.

I hope one day we get a book that dives into Silicon Graphics from their inception through to the Tezro and that interviews take place before people pass away or forget some of the more interesting product development and engineering notes that most people on here would find invaluable.
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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby kjaer » Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:09 pm

I'd like to counter the idea that "pizza box" == "any desktop style enclosure". An Indigo2 is not a pizza box. The Tandy 1000 is not a pizza box. I'd argue that the Sun Ultra 1 isn't really a pizza box. Indy, sure.

The SPARCstation 1 really does resemble a pizza box in many ways. It was a novel package for a computer system, by 1989 standards.
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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby Adrenaline » Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:31 pm

kjaer wrote:I'd like to counter the idea that "pizza box" == "any desktop style enclosure". An Indigo2 is not a pizza box. The Tandy 1000 is not a pizza box. I'd argue that the Sun Ultra 1 isn't really a pizza box. Indy, sure.

The SPARCstation 1 really does resemble a pizza box in many ways. It was a novel package for a computer system, by 1989 standards.


I can see that, maybe a better description would be "Horizontal Desktop Enclosure" where some styling may be achieved like in the Indigo2, Indy, NeXTstation etc. but generally un-stylized and utilized in a horizontal fashion compared to the more tower/custom shapes of the Indigo/O2/Octane/Tezro/NeXTcube/G4 Cube/etc.
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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby smj » Mon Apr 20, 2015 7:56 pm

kjaer wrote:I'd like to counter the idea that "pizza box" == "any desktop style enclosure". An Indigo2 is not a pizza box. The Tandy 1000 is not a pizza box. I'd argue that the Sun Ultra 1 isn't really a pizza box. Indy, sure.

The SPARCstation 1 really does resemble a pizza box in many ways. It was a novel package for a computer system, by 1989 standards.

+1. I don't recall anybody at the time referring to the Indigo2 as a pizza box*. And by coloring them teal and purple SGI made sure they weren't going to be compared to typical beige box PCs no matter what was inside...


* The referenced DG ad from 1991 was cute, but it's a misleading example for that article as the AViiON 7000 and 8000 systems were cabinet-based SMP machines. The CPU board in question was certain pizza-sized, but the machines it would be used in were not desktops.. Arguably the first generation desktop AViiON workstations, the 300/310, would qualify as they were similar to the old Sun-3/60 - a single outsized board in a thin enclosure with no internal peripherals.
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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby chicaneuk » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:26 am

Add the feet and the Indigo2 is a tower again anyway ;)
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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby GIJoe » Tue May 05, 2015 5:27 am

guardian452 wrote:When are *all* workstations going to having the cpus and gpus mounted to the same giant heatsink with one bigass fan to cool it all? (ala trash can) It doesn't make much sense anymore to do it the old way...


you mean like the mac pro? never i suppose. you'd need totally different expansion cards for that? - or it would have to be one massive trashcan indeed. ;) cool machine though.

indy was super ergonomic with those 17 or 20 inch monitors put on top of it, just the right height. loved that. indigo2 was a bit too fat - you had to look up slightly when sat at the desk. also it was blowing hot air my way. now that i found a questionable design decision. :oops:

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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby ClassicHasClass » Tue May 05, 2015 6:34 am

The Indy makes me think of the Mac LC, which is appropriate since both were each company's respective low end machines.

If you were lugging around monitors that heavy, how did anyone have any energy to deathmatch after that?
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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby chicaneuk » Tue May 05, 2015 8:11 am

It is no wonder that as soon as LCD's became affordable, the CRT died off so quickly. I remember the days of going to LAN parties and having to lug my computer and monitor back and forth and it became excruciating after a while. Not to mention working in IT as computer monitors ramped up quickly from little 12-14" tiddlers, to being regularly 17 or 19" - my poor back.
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Re: Design Decisions for the Indigo 2 and Indy

Unread postby foetz » Tue May 05, 2015 11:54 am

chicaneuk wrote:It is no wonder that as soon as LCD's became affordable, the CRT died off so quickly. I remember the days of going to LAN parties and having to lug my computer and monitor back and forth and it became excruciating after a while. Not to mention working in IT as computer monitors ramped up quickly from little 12-14" tiddlers, to being regularly 17 or 19" - my poor back.

unfortunately practical and monetary reasons won over quality. especially early lcd's were awful :P


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