Well my story goes back to the days of the Indigo. I don't remember how I first found out about SGI but it was roughly 1992 I think. I was reading some general computer mag, might even have been a games mag, talking about Nintendos plans for the successor to the SNES. I think the N64 was actually announced in 1993 so I may be wrong about that.
Basically, I remember hearing about the capabilities of the Indigo. I remember a cousin of mine telling me about the Amiga Video Toaster used for Babylon5, and he mentioned SGI (sorry, Silicon Graphics) being machines that acted as external upgrades to some machines. At the time he thought that they were available for a number of systems such as the Amiga, PC and ST. I now know that they were available for the DEC Alpha machines, although I gather some cards (like the MCA IRIS Vision card that recently appeared on eBay) did become available for PCs, although these were after SGI decided to make their own hardware.
I'm not even nearly qualified to go into what came out and when, I just know the Indigo was out at the time and I spotted a few images in magazines and read about the awesome power. Bare in mind that in 1992, Intel had just released the 486DX2 CPU which ran at about 20-33MHz at launch, so the Indigo would have anihilated any PC at pretty much anything back then. I have no idea how much it cost, and I didn't even have my first PC until 1997(ish) although I did work with them before that. I was actually still using an Atari ST, and begrudged making the step onto Windows. I only did it because I was using Bentley's then-state-of-the-art MicroStation95 CAD package at college and needed a copy at home too. Mac was far too expensive so I plumped for a 116MHz AMD K5-PR166. At this time, I had only heard of the Indigo2 in magazines such as Computer Arts here in the UK. Unfortunately though, even though PCs were becoming more powerful and moving into the media markets at this time, Apple pretty much had all the attention, so I heard very little of SGI. This was before we had easy access to the internet at college. We had a single ISDN line that was used by the entire facility, until we got onto the super-fast accademic network here in the UK.
Anyway, by this time, little was ever heard about SGI here. You really had to be working in the arena to get any interaction. I bought a Nintendo64 a week after it launched here in the UK, it felt like I had my first SGI. I remember that was around my first year at college, which would've been 1995-96. Couldn't tell you exactly when though.
Years then passed and I just worked on PCs. I got swallowed up by the instabilities of Windows. I started at home on Win95, then went to Win98. I tried Linux around the launch of WinME and hated it (SuSE I think it was). My AMD K5 couldn't take WinME, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, so I tried Mandrake. Hated that too as I couldn't get any decent apps to work. By this time I was heavy into use of Photoshop and 3D Studio Max. I eventually upgraded to an AMD Athlon 1.33GHz PC, a massive step from the PR166 AMD K5 that I had used for 4 years! I got swallowed up in the PC/Windows world and didn't really give SGI another thought for some time.
I went through a couple of CAD/Engineering jobs before I sustained an injury and had to take it easy. I was doing CAD as well as operating some serious machinery, doing a lot of lifting. It was killing me since I had trapped nerves in my right shoulder and chest. I decided to opt for the easy life and took a job working for the UKs *favourite* high-street electronics retailer (the group, not the store) in their PC support call-centre. I was shocked to find out the job wasn't what was advertised and I was basically spending all day telling people how to reinstall Windows and how to plug the damn things in properly.
I soon tired of the job and got in touch with the cousin I mentioned earlier. He was/is working for a huge credit-agency around the corner from where I worked, and if his sister is to be believed, he was on £100,000+ a year. I wanted to know how to get into his field, mainly as a way to get out of the call centre.
I was told that studying for qualifications like Microsoft's MCSA and MCSE were pointless, they're far too specific and tie you to a relatively low-paid job working with Windows servers, and nobody really wants that. He advised I pick up a Sun workstation, such as a SparcStation, and learn Solaris. "The money is in *NIX" he told me. Turns out that his company is almost ALL Sun H/W, as seems to be the trend in financial institutions. I decided to pick up an Ultra30 as the SparcStations seemed too low-spec for me, so I paid my money and set to being seriously confused.
While I was looking for Sun hardware on eBay, I noticed a few SGI machines, specifically Octane and Origin2000. The Octane was interesting but was still priced very highly. The Origin2000 I saw was a working 32-CPU machine with something like 8GB RAM (forget the exact figures now). I desperately wanted one of these, I figured I'd much rather learn IRIX than Solaris, although I had no idea what the state of SGIs hardware was these days. I figured since UNIX is standardised, that learning IRIX would make a transition to Solaris easier one day. Suffice to say that I saw fit to not buy the huge Origin server and I bought the Sun workstation I mentioned above.
Eventually I figured out what I was doing and then found that there was nothing else to do, it was running and there were no faults, so what else do I do? I got fed up and turned the machine off for some time. Since then I left the call centre to repair laptops. Still not exactly what I was looking for in a job!
When Solaris10 launched earlier this year I decided to turn the U30 back on. I then found that the new interface (Java Desktop System) seemed a lot slower than Solaris9's Gnome interface, despite JDS being based on Gnome, and there was no way I was going to try CDE, I hate that with a passion! Anyway, the speed of the U30 was making it difficult to work in the GUI so I decided to look for an upgrade. I had my eye on a Blade100 or Blade150, which were selling for about £150 in February. While I was scouring eBay I found Octane had dropped in price and £200 would buy me a decent 300MHz R12000 along with monitor, keyboard, mouse and SpaceBall. Right, I'm having it. I've wanted SGI for 13 years, I'm having one now.
Oh dear! It started and it couldn't stop. Since February, I bought that Octane, two Octane2, an Origin200 and an OriginVault, not to mention all the monitors! I have 5 20"+ monitors now! I need to sell off a couple of machines and I think the Sun is going. I'll buy a newer, higher spec one some time, but I have no use for it anymore. My PC is now a 2.4GHz P4 with 1GB RAM, yet I still enjoy using my 360MHz and 400MHz Octane2s more.
I'm sure you can imagine I was gutted when I realised SGI weren't developing newer versions of IRIX other than updates. Then I realised that MIPS was pretty much finished, and SGI were doing the Itanium thing. I felt like I'd wasted my money, but then I realised that IRIX is fun to use and it makes me smile everytime I power up, so I don't care. I wish I'd found the money and bought into SGI years ago now!
Long story I know, but I like to be thorough!