Sun's hot new family: the SPARCs are flying.
What happens when the twenty percent of microprocessor instructions that are used eighty percent of the time are implemented to operate at maximum speed and efficiency? We get reduced instruction set computing (RISC) processors.
Sun Microsystems Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., has unveiled a new family of handsomely built computer systems. The heart of each family member is the proprietary SPARC reduced instruction set microprocessor. The family comes with an opulent wardrobe of systems, applications and networking software. Though proprietary, SPARC is licenced to other manufacturers, in keeping with Sun's avowed "open systems" philosophy. The processor is made up of fewer than 50 components, and Sun claims that it draws only as much power as a 100-watt lightbulb.
Sun's least costly SPARC system is priced at $8,995. With discounts, universities could obtain it for close to $5,000. At this price, the SPARC station 1 is competitive with the more powerful personal computers. It is claimed to have three times the power of the most fully-loaded and accelerated traditional workstation. Sun has positioned itself well: The workstation market as a whole is expected to grow 44 percent and reach $5.9 billion this year (Wall Street Journal, 2-5-89).
The UNIX operating system underpins Sun's applications environment. The Sun environment, Open Windows, emphasises an intuitive icon-based user interface, OPEN LOOK, and high-performance graphics and sound. The range of graphics capabilities comprises 3D rendering, image processing, live-motion video and "photo-realistic" imaging.
Sun aims its systems at three categories of user: the desktop user, the "power" user and the network user.
The SPARCstation 1 is for the desktop user. Its raw statistics are as follows: Processor: SPARC. Integer performance: 12.5 MIPS. Clock speed: 20 MHz. Floating point performance: 1.4 Mflops. Main memory: 8-16 MB RAM. Floppy disk: 3.5". Hard disk capacity: 104 MB-1.1 GB. Graphics standard: GX, TC (see later). Expansion: 3 small, high-speed connectors with Sbus design. Tape backup: 150 MB. Cache memory: 64 KB. Bundled software: Sun OS; NFS; Sun View. Base price configuration: 8 MB RAM; 17" monochrome display; diskless--$8,995.
The SPARCstation 330 is for the "power user." Its raw statistics are: Processor: SPARC. Integer performance: 16 MIPS. Clock speed: 25 MHz. Floating point performance: 2.6 Mflops. Main memory: 8-40 MB RAM. Floppy disk: Not available, Hard disk capacity: 327 MB-1.3 GB. Graphics standard: GX, GXP (see later). Expansion: 5 slots. Tape backup: 150 MB. Cache memory: 128 KB. Bundled software: Sun OS; NFS; Sun View. Base price configuration: 8 MB RAM; 19" monochrome display; 327 MB hard disk--$29,900.
The SPARCstation 370 is for the network user. Its raw statistics are: Processor: SPARC. Integer performance: 16 MIPS. Clock speed: 25 MHz. Floating point performance: 2.6 Mflops. Main memory: 8-56 MB RAM. Floppy disk: Not available. Hard disk capaicty: 1.3 GB-5.5 GB. Graphics standard: GX, GXP, TAAC (see later). Expansion: 12 slots. Tape backup: 150 MB. Cache memory: 128 KB. Bundled software: Sun OS; NFS; Sun View. Base price configuration: 8 MB RAM; 19" monochrome display; 327 MB hard disk; 150 MB tape--$40,900.
All the systems offer the option of a 19" color monitor with 1,152 x 900 resolution. The graphics variants of the systems are the SPARCstations 1GX, 330GX, 330GXP, 370GX and 370GXP. They range in price from $14,495 to $73,900.
The graphics functionalities are, in brief: GX gives 2D, 3D wireframe/flat shading, anti-aliasing, and 8-bit planes. GXP gives 3D solid modeling, full shading, Z-buffering, double-buffering and 24-bit planes. TC gives 24-bit planes. TAAC gives visualization, image processing and programmable 24-bit planes.
Sun claims to have 500 "SPARCware" applications packages ready, with more underway. It is aiming the SPARCstation 1 squarely at higher-education users such as reseachers, professors, students, librarians and administrators. Scott McNealy, president and CEO of Sun, says of SPARCstation 1, "We've attempted to bridge the PC and workstation worlds with this computer."
Some third-party packages that are of interest to educators:
The Publisher and TeX Full System are two powerful electronic publishing packages. AutoCAD, from Autodesk Inc., is a multi-purpose design and drafting system. FrameMaker is a document preparation system; FrameWriter is a word processor. The Mathematica interactive computation software allows quick calculations in algebra, calculus and geometry and fucntions both as a calculation tool and a high-level programming environment. Pro-cite is a database management system for organizing and formatting bibliographies.
SunWrite/SunPaint/SunDraw form a low-cost suite of applications that allow users to prepare a wide range of text- and graphics-based documents.
The slightly subterranean but highly-regarded Smalltalk-80 software environment is for the development of tailor-made applications. The classical languages of FORTRAN, Pascal and Common Lisp are also available.
Sun's networking environment uses SunOS, which is a merging of AT&T and Berkeley UNIX. Sun stations can connect to a wide variety of computers, including IBM, Apple, Hewlett Packard and DEC. And Sun claims that its NFS (networking filing system) is now the industry standard.
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|Publication:||T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)|
|Date:||Jun 1, 1989|
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