Formally known as Silicon Graphics, Incorporated, SGI began as a maker of graphics display terminals in 1982. It was founded by Jim Clark based on his work with geometry pipelines, specialized software or hardware that accelerates the display of three dimensional images. SGI was originally incorporated as a California corporation in November 1981, and reincorporated as a Delaware corporation in January 1990.
The first machines were designed to be connected to a DEC VAX computer as a terminal, handling only the actual display. After that, SGI began using Motorola 68000 microprocessors running the UNIX operating system to power the machine. Their height was reached with the SGI 3130, a complete UNIX workstation using the 68030 microprocessor with an attached Wietek (I think) math coproccessor.
The 3X30 was powerful enough to support a complete 3D animation and rendering package on its own without mainframe support. With large capacity hard drives (300MB X 2), streaming tape and 10baseT ethernet it could be the centerpiece of an animation operation.
With the introduction of the 4D series, SGI switched over to using the MIPS RISC microprocessors. These machines were correspondingly more powerful, able to address more memory and with powerful on board math capability. These machines made much of the SGI name as 3D graphics became more popular on television and film.
SGI expanded these machines up to the massive Onyx supercomputers, the size of refrigerators and capable of supporting up to 64 processors while managing up to three streams of high resolution, fully realized 3D graphics.
Now that inexpensive PC's are beginning to catch up in terms of graphics performance, SGI is concentrating on its high performance server capabilities, offering servers for digital video and the Web. Many SGI graphics engineers have left to work at newer companies, driving the PC 3D graphics revolution. In response to these market changes, Silicon Graphics Inc. changed its corporate identity to SGI in an attempt to clarify their current market position as a more than simply a graphics company. The legal name of the company remains unchanged. SGI has evolved into a significant player in other fields such as high end web servers and high-performance computing.
In February 1996, SGI purchased Cray Research, and began to use marketing names such as "CrayLink" for (SGI developed) technology integrated into the SGI server line. SGI later sold part of the Cray product line to Tera Computer Company on March 31, 2000. SGI also distributed its remaining interest in MIPS Technologies, Inc. through a spin-off effective June 20, 2000. Another purchase was AliasWavefront, makers of the Maya 3D software package.
The company has been drifting in recent years, since its high cost structure makes it tough to compete with cheaper alternatives. An attempt to introduce workstations running under Windows NT angered its true believer customers without generating significant interest among outsiders.
Those who use SGI computers tend to be fiercely loyal, but the companies that spend tens of thousands of dollars on them are rapidly losing patience. The porting of Maya to GNU/Linux and the Macintosh is looking like a watershed in this development; there will soon be little reason to buy a $40,000 SGI machine when a $3,500 Macintosh would do.
Silicon Graphics, Inc. (exact name as specified in its charter and registered to SEC)
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, California 94043-1351, USA
192,217,995 shares of Common Stock outstanding as of August 31, 2001.