SGI Onyx

SGI Onyx, code named Eveready (deskside models) and Terminator (rackmount models), is a series of visualization systems designed and manufactured by SGI, introduced in 1993 and offered in two models, deskside and rackmount. The Onyx's basic system architecture is based on the SGI Challenge servers, but with the notable inclusion of graphics hardware.

The Onyx was employed in early 1995 for development kits used to produce software for the Nintendo 64 and, because the technology was so new, the Onyx was noted as the major factor for the impressively high price of US$100,000[1]US$250,000[2] for such kits.

The Onyx was succeeded by the Onyx2 in 1996 and was discontinued on March 31, 1999.

Deskside Onyx
ManufacturerSilicon Graphics, Inc.
Release date1993
DiscontinuedMarch 31, 1999
Operating systemIRIX
CPUMIPS architecture
Onyx IO Ports


IP19 with quad R4400s.

The deskside variant can accept one CPU board, and the rackmount variant can take up to six CPU boards. Both models were launched with the IP19 CPU board with one, two or four MIPS R4400 microprocessors, initially with 100 and 150 MHz options and later increased to 200 and 250 MHz. Later, the IP21 CPU board was introduced, with one or two R8000 microprocessors at 75 or 90 MHz; machines with this board were referred to as POWER Onyx. Finally, SGI introduced the IP25 board with one, two or four R10000 microprocessors at 195 MHz.

Graphics subsystem

The Onyx initially used the RealityEngine2 or VTX graphics subsystems, and later, InfiniteReality, which was introduced in 1995.


The RealityEngine2 is the original high-end graphics subsystem for the Onyx and was produced in two models. The deskside model has one GE12 board with 12 GE (Geometry Engine) processors, up to four RM4 boards, and a DG4 board. The rackmount model differs by supporting four RM4 or RM5 boards, but is otherwise the same.


The VTX graphics subsystem is a cost reduced version of the RealityEngine2, using the same hardware but in a feature reduced configuration that can not be upgraded. It consists of one GE10 board with six GE (Geometry Engine) processors, an RM4 board and a DG2 board.


The InfiniteReality succeeded the RealityEngine2 as the high-end graphics subsystem for the Onyx when introduced in 1996. It was produced in two models; the deskside model consists of a GE12 board with GE11 geometry engines, one or two RM6 boards and a DG4 board while the rackmount model differs by supporting up to four RM6 boards.


  1. ^ "Silicon Graphics: showing off". Edge (7): 18–19. April 1994. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  2. ^ Gaming Gossip. Electronic Gaming Monthly. Issue 69. Pg.52. April 1995.

Further reading

  • POWER Onyx and Onyx Deskside Owner's Guide (document number: 007-1733-070).
  • POWER Onyx and Onyx Rackmount Owner's Guide (document number: 007-1736-060).
ARCS (computing)

ARCS is a firmware bootloader (also known as a PROM console) used in most computers produced by SGI since the beginning of the 1990s.

The ARCS system is loosely compliant with the Advanced RISC Computing (ARC) standard, promulgated by the Advanced Computing Environment consortium in the early 1990s. In another sense, the ARC standard is based on SGI's ARCS, which was used as a basis for generating the ARC standard itself, although ARC calls for a little-endian system while ARCS system is big-endian on all MIPS-based systems. Despite various inconsistencies between the two, both SGI's ARCS implementations and the ARC standard share many commonalities (such as device naming, calling conventions, etc.).

Most of the computers which use the ARCS firmware are based on the MIPS line of microprocessors. But, the SGI Visual Workstation series, which is based on the Intel Pentium III, also uses ARCS. The Visual Workstation series is the only commercially produced x86-compatible system which used an ARCS firmware, rather than the traditional PC BIOS used in most Intel 386-lineage machines.

A list of product lines which use the ARCS console includes:

SGI Crimson (IP17)

SGI Indigo (R4000/R4400) (IP20)

SGI Indigo2 (and Challenge M) (IP22)

SGI Indy (and Challenge S) (IP24)

SGI Onyx (IP19/IP21/IP25)

SGI Indigo2 R8000 (IP26)

SGI Indigo2 R10000 (IP28)

SGI O2 (IP32)

SGI Octane (IP30)

SGI Origin 200 (IP27)

SGI Origin 2000 (IP27/IP31)

SGI Onyx2 (IP27/IP31)

SGI Fuel (IP35)

SGI Tezro (IP35)

SGI Origin 300 (IP35)

SGI Origin 350 (IP35)

SGI Origin 3000 (IP27/IP35)

SGI Onyx 300 (IP35)

SGI Onyx 350 (IP35)

SGI Onyx 3000 (IP27/IP35)

SGI Onyx4 (IP35)

SGI Visual Workstation

André LaMothe

André LaMothe is a computer scientist, author, embedded systems developer and game programmer. He was responsible for the development of hardware and software for artificial intelligence research and worked specifically on the sparse distributed memory project at NASA's Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science (RIACS).

LaMothe attended San Jose State University where he triple majored in mathematics, computer science, and electrical engineering.

LaMothe is best known for his game development books in the 1990s and early 2000s and his indie game development company Xtreme Games LLC which in the 1990s was one of the only places for indie developers to get their games published and have serious distribution. He is an international best selling author and his books on game programming have sold approximately 500 thousand copies in total. LaMothe has written and produced numerous video games including the first-person shooter 3D Rex-Blade series in the mid-1990s, Tetrimania Master, Tunnel Blaster, Blast Thru, and many others while CEO of Xtreme Games LLC. Other projects he has pioneered in was the development of the first super computer virtual reality location-based games "Cybergate" while working at Vision of Reality using the Sense8 API and SGI Onyx super computers.

LaMothe is the creator of the XGameStation, the world's first DIY video game console development kits in 2004. Recently he added a new more powerful Parallax Propeller multi-core based system, called the HYDRA Game Development Kit, to the earlier systems that were based on the SX52 Processor and SX28 Processors. These were followed by the MACH64 Programmable Logic Starter Kit which teaches Complex programmable logic devices (CPLDs). Lamothe's latest next-generation gaming products are the XGS AVR 8-Bit and XGS PIC 16-Bit. These systems are designed to be used as AVR/PIC development kits targeting engineers, hobbyists, and students.

Recently, LaMothe released the Chameleon AVR 8-Bit as well as the Chameleon PIC 16-Bit. These systems are Arduino compatible to varying degrees, but rely on a multiprocessor, multicore architecture to leverage the strengths of the Arduino's philosophy while enabling simplified media generation such as NTSC VGA, audio, as well as interfacing to devices such as keyboard and mice with very little code.

He founded Xtreme Games LLC in 1994, which represented hundreds of small independent or amateur game companies "indies" and at the time was the "world's largest virtual game company." In its heyday, Xtreme Games licensed hundreds of Casual games to companies such as Expert Software, Activision, and eGames. LaMothe was the founder of the Xtreme Games Developer Conference (XGDC) a grass roots game developer conference which ran from 1999 to 2002 and was licensed to Course PTR in 2002 and renamed the XGDX and ran until 2005.LaMothe developed the "Black Art Series" for Waite Group Press in the mid-1990s, which was recently brought back to life by Sams Publishing, and was the Series Editor and Creative Director of Premier Publishing's (now Cengage) Game Development Series which has published over 100+ titles in game development.

Currently, LaMothe is the CEO of Nurve Networks LLC which develops embedded systems catering to entertainment and educational hardware kits. He is also a board member and instructor at, and sits on the advisory board of (a digital / retro museum).

Autodesk Media and Entertainment

Autodesk Media and Entertainment is a division of Autodesk which offers animation and visual effects products, and was formed by the combination of multiple acquisitions. In 2018, the company began operating

as a single operating segment and reporting unit.


The Cineon System was one of the first computer based digital film system created by Kodak in the early 1990s. It was an integrated suite of components consisting a Motion picture film scanner, a film recorder and workstation hardware with software (the Cineon Digital Film Workstation) for compositing, visual effects, image restoration and color management.The system was first released in September 1992 to Cinesite Hollywood. The workstations were initially built on Sun-Transputer based hardware. In July 1993 version 2.1.3 of the software was released for Silicon Graphics Inc, SGI Onyx hardware. The software was withdrawn from sale by 1997, although a number of customers continued to use it beyond that date.

As an end-to-end solution for 4K resolution, 10 bit digital film production and Digital intermediate the system was one of the first. The three major components of the system (scanner, workstation software, and recorder) have all received separate AMPAS Scientific and Technical Awards.The Cineon project was also responsible for the creation of the Cineon ( .cin) 10 bit log file format, designed to handle digital film frames. Although the product is no longer for sale, Cineon file format that Kodak defined was for a long time commonly used in the film visual effects world, and formed the basis for the newer SMPTE-standardised Digital Picture Exchange (DPX) format.

Dunton Technical Centre

The Dunton Technical Centre (informally Ford Dunton or Dunton) is a major automotive research and development facility located in Dunton Wayletts, Laindon, Essex, United Kingdom owned and operated by Ford Motor Company. It was the largest automotive technical centre in the United Kingdom and takes its name from the nearby Dunton Wayletts. Ford Dunton houses the main design team of Ford of Europe alongside its Merkenich Technical Centre in Cologne, Germany. In 2007, Dunton had around 3,000 staff working at the site.

Final Fantasy VI

Final Fantasy VI, also known as Final Fantasy III from its marketing for initial North American release in 1994, is a role-playing video game developed and published by Japanese company Square for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Final Fantasy VI, being the sixth game in the series proper, was the first to be directed by someone other than producer and series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi; the role was filled instead by Yoshinori Kitase and Hiroyuki Ito. Yoshitaka Amano, long-time collaborator to the Final Fantasy series, returned as the character designer and contributed widely to visual concept design, while series-regular, composer Nobuo Uematsu, wrote the game's score, which has been released on several soundtrack albums. Set in a fantasy world with a technology level equivalent to that of the Second Industrial Revolution, the game's story follows an expanding cast that includes fourteen permanent playable characters. The drama includes and extends past depicting a rebellion against an evil military dictatorship, pursuit of a magical arms-race, use of chemical weapons in warfare, depiction of violent, apocalyptic confrontations with Divinities, several personal redemption arcs, teenage pregnancy, and the continuous renewal of hope and life itself.

Final Fantasy VI was released to critical acclaim and is seen as a landmark title for the role-playing genre; for instance, it was ranked as the 2nd best RPG of all time by IGN in 2017. Its SNES and PlayStation versions have sold over 3.48 million copies worldwide to date as a stand-alone game, as well as over 750,000 copies as part of the Japanese Final Fantasy Collection and the North American Final Fantasy Anthology. Final Fantasy VI has won numerous awards and is considered by many to be one of the greatest video games of all time.

It was ported by Tose with minor differences to Sony's PlayStation in 1999 and Nintendo's Game Boy Advance in 2006, and it was released for the Wii's Virtual Console in 2011. Nintendo re-released Final Fantasy VI in the United States in September 2017 as part of the company's Super NES Classic Edition. The game was known as Final Fantasy III when it was first released in North America, as the original Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy III, and Final Fantasy V had not been released outside Japan at the time (leaving IV as the second title released outside Japan and VI as the third). However, most later localizations use the original title.

GoldenEye 007 (1997 video game)

GoldenEye 007 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Rare and based on the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye. It was released for the Nintendo 64 video game console in August 1997. The game features a single-player campaign in which players assume the role of British Secret Intelligence Service agent James Bond as he fights to prevent a criminal syndicate from using a satellite weapon against London to cause a global financial meltdown. The game includes a split-screen multiplayer mode in which up to four players can compete in different types of deathmatch games.

GoldenEye 007 was developed over a period of two and a half years by an inexperienced team led by Martin Hollis, who had previously worked on the coin-op version of Killer Instinct. It was partially conceived as an on-rails shooter inspired by Sega's Virtua Cop, before being redesigned as a free-roaming shooter. The game was highly acclaimed by the gaming media and sold over eight million copies worldwide, making it the third-best-selling Nintendo 64 game. It received the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Games Award and four awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.

Retrospectively, GoldenEye 007 is considered an important game in the history of first-person shooters for demonstrating the viability of game consoles as platforms for the genre, and for signalling a transition from the then-standard Doom-like approach to a more realistic style. It pioneered features such as atmospheric single-player missions, stealth elements, and a console multiplayer deathmatch mode. The game is frequently cited as one of the greatest video games of all time. A spiritual successor, Perfect Dark, was released in 2000, while a reimagining of the game, also titled GoldenEye 007, was released in 2010.


InfiniteReality refers to a 3D graphics hardware architecture and a family of graphics systems that implemented the aforementioned hardware architecture that was developed and manufactured by Silicon Graphics from 1996 to 2005. The InfiniteReality was positioned as Silicon Graphics' high-end visualization hardware for their MIPS/IRIX platform and was used exclusively in their Onyx family of visualization systems, which are sometimes referred to as "graphics supercomputers" or "visualization supercomputers". The InfiniteReality was marketed to and used by large organizations such as companies and universities that are involved in computer simulation, digital content creation, engineering and research.

Instructions per second

Instructions per second (IPS) is a measure of a computer's processor speed. For

CISC computers different instructions take different amounts of time, so the value measured depends on the instruction mix; even for comparing processors in the same family the IPS measurement can be problematic. Many reported IPS values have represented "peak" execution rates on artificial instruction sequences with few branches and no cache contention, whereas realistic workloads typically lead to significantly lower IPS values. Memory hierarchy also greatly affects processor performance, an issue barely considered in IPS calculations. Because of these problems, synthetic benchmarks such as Dhrystone are now generally used to estimate computer performance in commonly used applications, and raw IPS has fallen into disuse.

The term is commonly used in association with a numeric value such as thousand/kilo instructions per second (TIPS/KIPS), million instructions per second (MIPS), and billion instructions per second (GIPS).

OpenGL Multipipe

OpenGL Multipipe is the default SGI solution for handling parallel rendering on a single desktop using multiple displays on Irix and Linux. It first appeared in Irix 6.5.10 as a solution for creating desktops on SGI Onyx Visualization Systems (their so-called Reality Centers) which took advantage of multiple Raster/Geometry Managers in multiple pipelines. The package was originally composed of Xinerama, a Xinerama aware version of 4DWM (called omp4Dwm) and a backend server to handle and distribute all OpenGL threads to the various physical pipes called Transparent OpenGL (or tgl).In SGI parlance, a pipe (see Graphics pipeline) is akin to a PCI Video Card connected to other cards that handle Geometry and/or Rasterization in a "pipeline" (hence the name and the relevant nature of OpenGL), somewhat similar to 3Dfx's Voodoo Graphics card (though many considered the latter hackish and not at all a true pipe). Nowadays a pipe is solely on a single board and on a single chip (GPU). More to the point, a single SGI pipeline (e.g. InfiniteReality4) could be configured to have up to 8 Video Outputs, each with its own Raster Manager (or 4 with additional Texture memory and a Geometry manager). SGI's Implementation of Xinerama would transparently handle OpenGL on all display outputs (including multiple pipes), but usually offloaded all OpenGL calls to a blanket OpenGL API called transparent OpenGL(like running Xdmx without Chromium).

Programming for a single display on multiple pipes was always possible in OpenGL using threads (and subsequently in Open Inventor and OpenGL Performer), making them "multipipe aware", but this proved challenging for scientists and architects who cringed at C/C++ multithreading. SGI decided to lighten the burden by developing a package that would encompass a halfway optimized solution for applications programmed for only one pipe via Multipipe.

OpenGL Multipipe was part one of a three tiered approach to escalate applications towards multipipe awareness. The second part was Multipipe SDK which provided a simple set of libraries that made an OpenGL application multipipe aware. The third was moving on to the multipipe aware OpenGL Performer. The latest versions of Multipipe include Xdmx as a better suited solution for multiple displays. Ultimately this solution would be superseded by working Xdmx, Xinerama and Chromium in tandem on linux graphics clusters. Programming multiple pipes in OpenGL would be facilitated by Equalizer or by a variety of SceneGraph Libraries.

SGI Onyx2

SGI Onyx2, code name Kego, is a family of visualization systems developed and manufactured by SGI, introduced in 1996 to succeed the Onyx. The Onyx2's basic system architecture is based on the Origin 2000 servers, but with the inclusion of graphics hardware. In 2000, the Onyx2 was succeeded by the Onyx 3000, and it was discontinued on June 27, 2003. These systems run either IRIX 6.4 or 6.5.

SGI Origin 3000 and Onyx 3000

The Origin 3000 and the Onyx 3000 is a family of mid-range and high-end computers developed and manufactured by SGI. The Origin 3000 is a server, while the Onyx 3000 is a visualization system. Both systems were introduced in July 2000 to succeed the Origin 2000 and the Onyx2 respectively. These systems ran the IRIX 6.5 Advanced Server Environment operating system. Entry-level variants of these systems based on the same architecture but with a different hardware implementation are known as the Origin 300 and Onyx 300. The Origin 3000 was succeeded by the Altix 3000 in 2004 and the last model was discontinued on 29 December 2006, while the Onyx 3000 was succeeded by the Onyx4 and the Itanium-based Prism in 2004 and the last model was discontinued on 25 March 2005.

Silicon Graphics

Silicon Graphics, Inc. (later rebranded SGI, historically known as Silicon Graphics Computer Systems or SGCS) was an American high-performance computing manufacturer, producing computer hardware and software. Founded in Mountain View, California in November 1981 by Jim Clark, its initial market was 3D graphics computer workstations, but its products, strategies and market positions developed significantly over time.

Early systems were based on the Geometry Engine that Clark and Marc Hannah had developed at Stanford University, and were derived from Clark's broader background in computer graphics. The Geometry Engine was the first very-large-scale integration (VLSI) implementation of a geometry pipeline, specialized hardware that accelerated the "inner-loop" geometric computations needed to display three-dimensional images. For much of its history, the company focused on 3D imaging and was a major supplier of both hardware and software in this market.

Silicon Graphics reincorporated as a Delaware corporation in January 1990. Through the mid to late-1990s, the rapidly improving performance of commodity Wintel machines began to erode SGI's stronghold in the 3D market. The porting of Maya to other platforms is a major event in this process. SGI made several attempts to address this, including a disastrous move from their existing MIPS platforms to the Intel Itanium, as well as introducing their own Linux-based Intel IA-32 based workstations and servers that failed in the market. In the mid-2000s the company repositioned itself as a supercomputer vendor, a move that also failed.

On April 1, 2009, SGI filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and announced that it would sell substantially all of its assets to Rackable Systems, a deal finalized on May 11, 2009, with Rackable assuming the name "Silicon Graphics International". The remains of Silicon Graphics, Inc. became Graphics Properties Holdings, Inc.

Snoopy cache

In computing a snoopy cache is a type of memory cache that performs bus sniffing. The technique was introduced by Ravishankar and Goodman in 1983.Such caches are used in systems where many processors or computers share the same memory and each has its own cache. In such systems processor 'A' may read a value from memory, then processor 'B' does the same. If either of the processors now change the value by writing back to memory they will invalidate the other processor's cached value.

In order to prevent this and maintain cache coherence, snoopy caches monitor ('snoop on') the memory bus to detect any writes to values that they are holding, including changes coming from other processors or distributed computers.

However, this approach can only work in computer architectures like SGI Challenge and SGI Onyx where a single memory bus is shared between all processors.

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