What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

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What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby Dodoid » Sat Oct 08, 2016 8:12 am

I was reading the Nekochan wiki page on the SGI Fuel, and one thing caught my eye.

Contrary to popular belief, Fuel was not a successor to O2. SGI never made a follow-on to O2; a new system was designed (internally known as the Banana2000 or b2k) but was never developed beyond a prototype.


Wiki history shows that this information was added by Ian Mapleson on June 11th, 2008.

So, naturally, I looked into the Banana2000. First, I found this Nekochan post from Ian Mapleson:
http://forums.nekochan.net/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=16720229&p=7293924&hilit=b2k#p7293924

It gives a bit of info on the specs of the b2k, saying:

Sad part is, Casey Leedom did design & build a new low-end IRIX commodity-parts prototype, but management killed it off even though they
let him make it. Nicknamed the 'Banana2000' or 'b2k', it had NVIDIA graphics, PCIe and a Broadcomm dual-core MIPS CPU. Casey moved
to Apple (don't blame him).


I found another post (http://forums.nekochan.net/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=12070&hilit=b2k) reaffirming the same specs, also from Ian.

There was a lot of talk about a new low-end, and even a nice prototype nicknamed the Banana2K (or b2k), but management killed it (pity, it was cool: dual-core Broadcomm MIPS CPU, new fast bus as used by NVIDIA, and modern NVIDIA gfx). Oh well.


Otherwise, within Nekochan forums, the only other mentions of b2k are referring to a Sun Blade 2000. However, outside of Nekochan, I did find one other mention of a Banana2000, on a forum from 1994: http://www.verycomputer.com/16_b6ee0b071588ccb8_1.htm#p3
Here's an idea if SGI wants to set its sights a little higher than 100,000 units a year. (try 400,000 units)

The little yellow box (code name Banana 2000)

Minimum Configuration, $2,500 (list).
R4600 at 100 MHz, no secondary cache.
16 MB memory
no disk
audio and video ports, but no Indy Cam. (?)
no screen
13W3 to BNC, and 13W3 to VGA cables
keyboard
mouse
IRIX 5.3 on CD Rom.
PCMCIA type III slot

Special button on the back next to the graphics port that changes that resolution of the graphics between: 640x480x30Hz, 1024x768x60Hz, 1024x768x75Hz, 1280x1024x60Hz, 1280x1024x72Hz. This way users can hook up their elcheepo screen at first and play with their banana, and maybe some of them will never do any better, but monitor prices keep coming down.

Two critical BIOS changes are needed as well:
- built in a disk formatter option in the boot up screen. Third party disks are dirt cheap as well. Even if you had to limit it to Conner and Segate drives, that still leaves users with a wide range of options.
- able to install operating system from a GENERIC CDROM!!!!! There's no excuse at this point for requiring a $1,200 double speed CDROM drive with special roms. Sure the sector size is a little strange, and reading audio tracks through the SCSI port is
cool, but most people only need to load the operating system, and a $80 single speed drive would do just fine.

This is a PC killer. Its not hugely profitable, but it would change SGI, and probably get it into the top 10 PC vendor list. Of course, SGI could offer upgrades to better CPUs, 24bit graphics, 1600x1200 graphics, network cards, nice monitors, and the such and make a bunch of money too. Its just that once theinstalled base is big enough, lots of low cost software might appear to makes the SGI platform the one to have.

Go ahead SGI. Surprise me.


Here, a forum user suggests that SGI produce a diskless low-end "PC Killer", presumably intended for home use with a television as a monitor (someone else even suggests kids may want one due to SGI producing impressive VFX for films and even appearing in them on occasion), saying that they should offer it for a low cost so as to encourage development of cheap software. Though perhaps unrealistic for 1994, is it possible that a decade later, Casey Leedom wanted to produce such a machine? The only other related page is a hamburger stew recipe (http://menlo.com/folks/adamm/cooking/recipes/beef/burger-stew/casey.html) which states Casey's email address as "leedom@sgi.com", confirming that someone named Casey Leedom did work for SGI, and that he was rather good at cooking.

That's as much as I could find, but where did Ian get this information from, and does anyone (him included) know anything that hasn't already been said?
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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby jimmer » Sat Oct 08, 2016 8:56 am

I was in Mountain View as a consultant to the Desktop Group at SGI in 2001. For two weeks I worked in a 'guest' cubicle a few yards down the hall from Casey's office. I can confirm that Casey was working on the Banana2k at the time. In fact he drew me a nice block/architecture diagram of it on a whiteboard in a meeting room on the same floor. After my stuff got checked into IRIX 6.5.15 I left Mountain View. Never heard anything more about the Banana2k.

Yes COTS parts. Yes Broadcom multi-core MIPS CPU and Yes Nvidia graphics.

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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby Dodoid » Sat Oct 08, 2016 9:02 am

jimmer wrote:I was in Mountain View as a consultant to the Desktop Group at SGI in 2001. For two weeks I worked in a 'guest' cubicle a few yards down the hall from Casey's office. I can confirm that Casey was working on the Banana2k at the time. In fact he drew me a nice block/architecture diagram of it on a whiteboard in a meeting room on the same floor. After my stuff got checked into IRIX 6.5.15 I left Mountain View. Never heard anything more about the Banana2k.

Yes COTS parts. Yes Broadcom multi-core MIPS CPU and Yes Nvidia graphics.


Cool. Did you ever hear about it being inspired by/based on the 1994 forum post? Also, was the connection to the graphics PCIe or something else?
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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby jimmer » Sat Oct 08, 2016 9:28 am

Never heard anything about it being inspired by a 1994 forum post. Can't confirm PCIe, I simply don't remember the details anymore.

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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby GL1zdA » Sat Oct 08, 2016 11:49 am

If you look at the architecture then the Visual Workstation 320/540 were the follow up to the O2. If you look at prices, it was the Fuel. A MIPS workstation with nVidia PCIe graphics in terms of architecture has nothing in common with SGIs MIPS workstations, so only the marketing department could position it as an O2 successor.

The R4600 looks interesting, but given all the other RISC machines failed in the market, I don't think it would survive.
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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby Dodoid » Sat Oct 08, 2016 1:09 pm

GL1zdA wrote:If you look at the architecture then the Visual Workstation 320/540 were the follow up to the O2. If you look at prices, it was the Fuel. A MIPS workstation with nVidia PCIe graphics in terms of architecture has nothing in common with SGIs MIPS workstations, so only the marketing department could position it as an O2 successor.

The R4600 looks interesting, but given all the other RISC machines failed in the market, I don't think it would survive.


Well architecture is important, but if a newer device has improved performance and similar features at a similar price, it could be considered a "follow-up" even if it is completely different. I would consider the MacBook Pro to be the successor to the PowerBook G4 even though they are entirely different.
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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby uunix » Sat Oct 08, 2016 2:32 pm

jimmer wrote:I was in Mountain View as a consultant to the Desktop Group at SGI in 2001. For two weeks I worked in a 'guest' cubicle a few yards down the hall from Casey's office. I can confirm that Casey was working on the Banana2k at the time. In fact he drew me a nice block/architecture diagram of it on a whiteboard in a meeting room on the same floor. After my stuff got checked into IRIX 6.5.15 I left Mountain View. Never heard anything more about the Banana2k.

Yes COTS parts. Yes Broadcom multi-core MIPS CPU and Yes Nvidia graphics.

Nice bit of history (or rather knowing someone who was there) Jimmer, very impressed. :)
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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby Adrenaline » Sun Oct 09, 2016 6:33 pm

jimmer wrote:I was in Mountain View as a consultant to the Desktop Group at SGI in 2001. For two weeks I worked in a 'guest' cubicle a few yards down the hall from Casey's office. I can confirm that Casey was working on the Banana2k at the time. In fact he drew me a nice block/architecture diagram of it on a whiteboard in a meeting room on the same floor. After my stuff got checked into IRIX 6.5.15 I left Mountain View. Never heard anything more about the Banana2k.

Yes COTS parts. Yes Broadcom multi-core MIPS CPU and Yes Nvidia graphics.


Shame things like that never saw the light, thanks for the insight.
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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby smj » Mon Oct 10, 2016 4:01 am

Dodoid wrote:However, outside of Nekochan, I did find one other mention of a Banana2000, on a forum from 1994

That's not a forum, it's some kind of weird trolling/click-bait site that takes NetNews postings and tries to strip out the signs of where it came from. I don't know what they're really up to, and I'm not letting a single line of Javascript from their site run in my browser so I'll probably never find out.

However I was able to find the original post: Am I dreaming comp.sys.sgi.hardware, 1994-08-23

Normal Google searches appear to exclude their NetNews archive, which irritates me no end. Not to mention the wretched interface. But I guess I should be grateful they haven't taken this descendant of the DejaNews archive offline...
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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby spiroyster » Mon Oct 10, 2016 5:52 am

Sounds like banana2000 was a working project name for SGI for quite a while.

The 2000 suffix was a popular marketing pastime pre millennium. Then after, given the massive panic over the irrelevant Y2K bug, it may been an in-house joke about over-hyping the (next-best-thing).

Seems like there are 2 systems being described here. One which perhaps became the O2 released in 96 and was a radical departure from the current graphics subsystems (I don't think the O2 was a PC-killer though, in fact PC's could no way compete at that time with the likes of these MIPS powerhouses back in 94/95). No PC-killing required!

The PC-killer they are talking about is perhaps the VW line. The Cobalt Visual Workstations IVC borrowed an improved a lot from the O2 CRM, the others in the range 230, 330 and 550 etc. did use Nvidia (The GeForce introduced hardware TnL, which gave massive performance boost in graphics and really was a game changer), and were essentially glorified PC's. They couldn't kill PC's because they were PC's. The only PC killer type would be these Cobalt VW's? since they were different enough to give something new while being compatible with current software (consider it a graphics system with extendable GPU, proprietary ram and the ability to run Win2K as an OS) :)

I think the Cobalt VW's was one of the greatest workstations SGI produced in terms of technology...Integrated graphics! Possibility to use 80% of the entire system ram for dedicated graphics! fuck-all latency for transferring buffers etc., these are seriously good features, and especially for 98! It took Nvidia and the Quadro a few years to catch up with those specs (large amounts of RAM etc), however they did have good performance off the bat.

Back in 2001 I was a budding young Maya user who couldn't believe it when I saw SGI did a NT/x86 system as I had a vast amount of software on x86/windows TruSpace, Vue D'spirit etc... (I was kind of one of the markets perhaps SGI was looking to capitalise on). I always wanted an indigo2 however at the back of my mind was the fact that I would have to source/spend lots of money on the software. Some lic's were transferable, but most weren't iirc (This put me off getting an Indigo2 for practicality reasons. I still wanted one for nostalgia).

PCIe didn't come about until 2004. In SGI lifetime that was about nail 5/6 in the already hammered coffin lib of SGI imo. It wouldn't have killed anything, rather kept flogging that dead horse.

Ironic that they used Nvidia. I wonder what the 3dfx guys (the ex-SGI employees who started 3dfx, recently acquired by Nvidia) at Nvidia thought about this big circle of creating a consumer 3d accelerator for games which was now being used by the very market they started to divorce themselves from. What part (3dfx) SLI played in all this. ;)

Personally, while I think they may have done some really good stuff in the x86 market, it may have also hastened their demise.

jimmer wrote:I was in Mountain View as a consultant to the Desktop Group at SGI in 2001. For two weeks I worked in a 'guest' cubicle a few yards down the hall from Casey's office. I can confirm that Casey was working on the Banana2k at the time. In fact he drew me a nice block/architecture diagram of it on a whiteboard in a meeting room on the same floor. After my stuff got checked into IRIX 6.5.15 I left Mountain View. Never heard anything more about the Banana2k.

Yes COTS parts. Yes Broadcom multi-core MIPS CPU and Yes Nvidia graphics.

This is a good story. So this was a new MIPS system they were working on? Seems like no matter how hard they tried, they couldn't leave MIPS alone, Dual core MIPS sounds very interesting. Although isn't this also about the time they were flirting with Itanium? How is your memory at reciting that block diagram... o.0

I recall reading stories on ARSTechnica a while ago about SGI sacking the entire team that worked on the Cobalt Visual Workstation almost immediately after the release of the 540? Is this true? I can believe it, but not had anything to verify.

[EDIT:] Geforce introduced TnL not Riva TNT.
Last edited by spiroyster on Mon Oct 10, 2016 8:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby Trippynet » Mon Oct 10, 2016 8:10 am

spiroyster wrote:The Riva introduced hardware TnL


GeForce I think you mean!
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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby spiroyster » Mon Oct 10, 2016 8:19 am

Trippynet wrote:
spiroyster wrote:The Riva introduced hardware TnL


GeForce I think you mean!

Thank you, yes that I do! Fixed!

At this rate I will have forgotten my name within the next 5 years. :shock:

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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby smj » Mon Oct 10, 2016 1:36 pm

spiroyster wrote:Sounds like banana2000 was a working project name for SGI for quite a while.

Possible. Note that the '94 NetNews post has no indication of being anything but a customer's wish. I'm not suggesting there isn't a connection - who knows who read that post inside SGI and elsewhere?

But "Banana 2000" could also be a reflection of a meme from the popular Bloom County cartoon strip. In 1984, the Banana Junior 6000 was introduced as the sentient computer given to child genius/hacker Oliver Wendell Jones. There's a synopsis of Banana Junior 6000 strips here.

If you had used the name "Banana 2000" in 1994, plenty of US-based geeks and nerds would have remembered this from Bloom County.

banana_jr_6000_ad.gif
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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby Dodoid » Mon Oct 10, 2016 3:32 pm

smj wrote:
spiroyster wrote:Sounds like banana2000 was a working project name for SGI for quite a while.

Possible. Note that the '94 NetNews post has no indication of being anything but a customer's wish. I'm not suggesting there isn't a connection - who knows who read that post inside SGI and elsewhere?

But "Banana 2000" could also be a reflection of a meme from the popular Bloom County cartoon strip. In 1984, the Banana Junior 6000 was introduced as the sentient computer given to child genius/hacker Oliver Wendell Jones. There's a synopsis of Banana Junior 6000 strips here.

If you had used the name "Banana 2000" in 1994, plenty of US-based geeks and nerds would have remembered this from Bloom County.

banana_jr_6000_ad.gif


As for using the name in the mid 2000s though? You gotta wonder if someone at SGI read the comp.sys.sgi.hardware "Am I Dreaming?" post.
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Re: What do we know about Banana2000/b2k? What are our sources?

Unread postby smj » Mon Oct 10, 2016 7:54 pm

smj wrote:I'm not suggesting there isn't a connection - who knows who read that post inside SGI and elsewhere?


Dodroid wrote:As for using the name in the mid 2000s though? You gotta wonder if someone at SGI read the comp.sys.sgi.hardware "Am I Dreaming?" post.


I'm sure *somebody* at SGI read it, I think many employees spent a few idle minutes in the various comp.sys.sgi.* groups, just like Sun, DEC, HP employees, and others. Which is why I didn't say anything foolish like, "That's unpossible!"

It could be that Casey Leedom was playing with an idea and recalled the old customer wish/post, and grabbed the name. It could be he independently came up with the term. Maybe it was a standing in-house joke post-1994 and every initial new product pitch went through a "Banana 2000" phase before it got it's own code name.

Maybe a(nother) helpful ex-SGI employee will run across this thread one day and share an enlightening story...
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