LGR – SGI Indigo2 Computer System Review


[typing] Silicon Graphics Incorporated, or SGI, is one of those computer companies
that I always heard about growing up but never really knew much about. I mostly remember them being involved
with Nintendo in the early- to mid-’90s, with SGI’s machines aiding in the development of
Donkey Kong Country’s pre-rendered 3D graphics and the company helping
develop the chipset for the Ultra 64, which became the Nintendo 64. There’s a whole lot more to the
story 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 in
graphics 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 in
everything from computer aided design to blockbuster movie production. Films like Terminator 2,
Jurassic Park and The Abyss would not have turned out the way
they did without SGI tech being available. And in 1991, their Indigo computer was one of the single-most
capable 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 of
feature 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 the
CPU, 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 model
with 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 as
a 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 workstations
until the introduction of the SGI Octane at the end of 1996. But that’s getting beyond the
scope of this particular video. The rest of this will be focused
on 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 an
awesome viewer of mine named Terrence. Thanks, Terrence! You’re far too trusting! As for what you can expect
to pay for one of these, though, the answer varies as wildly as the
number of Indigo 2 permutations that exist. On the current collectors market, expect to
pay anywhere from $90 for a low-end Indigo 2 on up to $2,300 or more for a
tricked-out, purple Indigo 2 Impact. And this particular model I have
right 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 configuration
theoretically could have cost $86,000 or so in 1995, and that’s *with* an academic discount. I say “theoretically” because this
thing 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 2
are 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 go
with 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 of
taking a sledgehammer to a bonsai tree! And if you prefer your locked up
workstations 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 at
a 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 a
computer 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 have
that works with the Indigo 2 due to its sync-on-green display requirement. And even then, I still have to
use a 13W3-to-VGA converter. And even that’s been modified to work with this
particular 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 off
what 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 GB
of RAM installed on this machine, which would have been astronomical in 1995, seeing as the largest RAM kit
available 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 and
all 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 here
is a Teac 32X SCSI CD-ROM, which is fine, since these were made to
be 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 6.5. And for the ’90s, this is some delightfully powerful stuff, being purpose-built from the ground up to
work with SGI architecture in particular. The result is a very stable and usable graphical interface that feels slick to use and a command line interface
that lets you dive into the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts stuff when you need to, which is gonna be rather often. Combined with the technical
abilities of the hardware, it’s a bit like using a Linux machine from
ten 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 productive
as 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 workstation
that was never meant for public use and as far as I can tell, there were
never *any* games actually sold for it. Again, it makes sense, but beyond
a 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 wondering
about 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 fully
mimic 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 time
and 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 that
it 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 collecting
that 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 much
just sit there looking pretty, and, um, for some machines I can
justify that, like the Commodore PET. But for something like this? Not so much, especially because to get it to really do all the
stuff 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 just
go out and purchase on a whim. On the other hand if you still
want one, I do not blame you at all. And might I recommend SGI Depot, ran by Ian Mapleson who
helped 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 for
helping making this video possible. And thanks again to Terrence
for loaning me his machine. And if you enjoyed this video, then perhaps you’d like to stick around and see some of my others on
other 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.

100 thoughts on “LGR – SGI Indigo2 Computer System Review

  1. Can anyone explain to me why I can't find anything that is this advanced today, compared to what is available at the consumer level? it seems the Titan XXX or whatever is all I can find and whatever intel I9 processer I can buy. (TLDR Why can't I spend 250k on something stupid fast)

  2. Was just watching the making of documentaries for the movie "The Frighteners", and the CG guys were explaining how they did some of the scenes. Anyway, behind each one of them was a Indigo2 workstation on their desks. This was a Weta Digital circa 1995.

  3. I know you haven't done one in a while, but are you planning on doing that Tech Tale about Silicon Graphics that you teased in this video?

  4. We had a whole room of those at Iowa State (donated to the university). Massive CRTs, I wonder today what their resolution must have been.

  5. Back in 1999 I had an option to buy the whole package (monitor, mouse and keyboard) for 100$, but I did not. Up to this day I am still kicking myself for not doing it ….

  6. If someone is looking for one of these there is a nearly mint condition one for sale $175 on Craigslist in Eugene, OR as of 1/3/2019. Just saw it listed and remembered this video.

  7. I used to dream of owning this shit to do 3D animation back in the day. Unfortunately, it was the price of a house. The software was the price of another house. Now I have better than this at home. Hurray!

  8. The window manager is something I want. MWM acts and behaves exactly like windows 3.1, with all of the conveates (no full screen, because the title and border show). lol
    Does this (the one in iris unix) act the same way? Read up on it, yes, it does. xD (just far more themes).

  9. Wow! The Indigo had a stand 5 years before PlayStation 2!

    Makes me wonder if Sony used a Indigo and copied there design. ​🤔

  10. My family's first computer in 1998 had 64 MB of ram and a 4GB hard drive. 1 GB of ram and a 120 GB hard drive in 1995 would have been mind blowing.

  11. Seeing that Onyx system just makes me wish I could go back in time and give the Square team some fucking backup drives so they wouldn't go and delete all the backgrounds from the PS1 era Final Fantasy games 🙁

  12. Damn what a BEAST. Back in 95 I would have killed to have something this powerful, though…Maybe a little less weird and proprietary?

  13. There's always a silent fart hidden in all your videos, isn't it?, do you consider your videos to stink?

  14. This thing look like PS2. or maybe PS2 was inspired by this

    and that keyboard didnt have windows button on it.

  15. I question the statement of "king of desktop workstations" – Sun with their SPARC systems gave SGI quite the run for their money, but more in the CAD space

  16. 2 legends of my teenage years were "SGI workstations" and "NEOGEO". All I knew about either was 1) They were AWESOME and 2) I couldn't afford one….EVER

  17. Could never find actual proof of this type of machines existence, but had a feeling it was out there because of the early AutoCAD models. Jurassic park clinched it for me even though nay sayers still said it wasn't possible. I'm glad to know it was there all along anyway. Just wow! It's like seeing a time machine that you know isn't possible but yet there it is.

  18. I should get around to hooking up my Octane and seeing if it works. It's just looking pretty right now. It was free, I saved it from being sent to recycling.

  19. Another invaluable video. Really interested in this SGI Depot business and will definitely dig into that store.

  20. I never saw one of these back in those days… the company I worked for in the late 90s used SunOS/Solaris workstations instead, mostly SPARCstations, and also some HP-UX stuff for the specific purpose of working with HP. Earlier I'd done a lot with DEC's DECstations.
    I remember how the market for these expensive Unix workstations was just killed in the late 90s/early 2000s when PCs with easy-to-install Linux distros became widespread: suddenly you could just buy PCs off the shelf at Circuit City for a fraction of the price and run whatever Unix stuff you needed to run, and the demands of gaming even meant that they had the CPU and graphics horsepower. And then Mac OS X was the killing blow, since suddenly the main Macintosh operating system itself was yet another Unix variant, shipping right from the factory.

  21. When I was in uni, I was working on a project and we had an SGI to do fluid simulation. It was a huge one, mini fridge size. I remember when we cracked open to see the innards, one colleague said "Wow! The video card is ACTUALLY 3D!"

  22. It's sad consumers only really care about video games. It's one of the least interesting computer applications there is.

  23. I would love to have one but wouldn't pay much to get it. my i7 laptop with 8 cores and 16 GB with a 1050 graphics card is more powerful and was a fraction of the price. plus with a 60 inch LG 4 K smart TV as primary monitor it eclipses the SGI. now if I were Bill Gates rich I would have a room full of them and invite friends to play with them.

  24. Back in the summer of 1997, between my junior and senior years of high school, I was in a one-week "Future Camp" at Indiana University – Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). We had a whole lab of Silicon Graphics Indy machines (the successor to the Indigo), and my team made a crude, mini animated movie on these. It blew my 17-year-old mind. At the end, they gave us all hats promoting the new SGI O2 (like oxygen) machines that had just been released as a successor to the Indy machines we worked on. When I wore the hat in front of my uncle, he teased me about being an airhead.

  25. I will never understand that Jurassic Park scene. How the hell does a little kid know UNIX in the 90's? The only place you'd experience that was at a university as faculty / staff or a student.

  26. And it ran UNIX!….. 🙂 Yeah, UNIX is a good choice….. 😉 And yes, I know you knew that….. 😀

  27. If these computers were used for movie CGI in the 90s then maybe they should bring them back, modern CGI is terrible.

  28. I was thinking about Jurassic Park as soon as you entered the system and then you played the clip. I want one just for that! lol

  29. WAIT, i have one of NEC processors.
    But it's on the broken board…
    How much will it cost?

  30. I read something that said
    A computer from 1999 would be useless 2 years later. Thats how fast tech evolved! But now it stopped. Whats next in tech?

  31. Cant help but having that price is right feel when i watch your videos lol. You sound just like the final showcase on your reviews. 🙂

  32. Those specs for back then, insane. Puts the Dell that I had then to shame. Which i may add, i thought was amazing!

  33. I used to run Alias Eclipse (proto-photoshop) on the OG indigo. You forgot to show off SGI's best feature: the coolest screen saver ever!

  34. Man, I like your videos. It brings back such great memories from a time when I started to explore computers. Today you see people line up almost two blocks at an Apple Store to get the new iPhone. I remember in my time when the Vic 20 and Commodore 64 came out that we slept in a tent in front of the store for the weekend to be sure we could buy one Monday morning. Over here in The Netherlands there was only one store who sold them. I never forget every Thursday evening 19h. We have a radio station called Radio 2. They aired every Thursday evening 2h long nothing else then Commodore 64 software. Tools, games and so on. We had to use a cassette players to record everything. Then you could load the software in to your Commodore 64. The Good ole Days.

  35. I loved the stupid UI in the Jurassic Park movie, so seeing that it was based on something that was absolutely real makes me very happy.

  36. I got a bunch of SGI Indigo 2s and Octanes around 2003-2006 when they were out of service at a large german company. Were great machines and I made my first Unix experiences with them.
    When I moved out of my last Appartment I had to get rid of my last Octane which was a Dual [email protected] with 8GB of RAM and dual MXE graphics card. It also hat the PCI Cardcage with the card to connect a second pair of Keyboard and Mouse. Quite a high end Octane for it's time.
    But when it comes to power consumption I'm glad I didn't use it for years 😄

  37. 우와. 후. 97년에 학생신분으로 이걸 샀음.
    바로 오존. 오투가 나오고.
    장비가 곧 수익인 시절!
    (Age that machine is the very profit)

  38. As a teenager I used to drool over these SGI machines at computer expos and trade shows, wondering how I could possibly afford one and what – if anything – I could do with it… 😀

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