SPARCstation 10 pushed Solaris onto desktops

Twenty-eight years ago this month, the first SPARC-based desktop computers were delivering multiprocessing for Solaris and SunOS. The month of June in 1992 also marks the beginning of active service for Solaris. Sun retired the SunOS one year later. Robust SPARCstation sales made Solaris a hit.

By accounts of the day, more than a million SPARCstation 10s earned their way onto corporate desktops in a single year. UnixWorld said the pizza-box style systems “bring together a half-dozen features that have never been in one place before. You can upgrade the CPU by swapping daughterboards. It has a built-in ISDN connection, along with Ethernet and twisted pair.”

With the Sparcstation 10, Sparcstations etched a permanent spot in IT for Solaris.  “You can upgrade the CPU whenever the SPARC processor vendors leapfrog each other with a new design,” UnixWorld of July 1992 says.  “It’s not just another powerhouse for scientists and engineers. On the commercial side, financial analysts doing lots of number crunching can use its desktop power. The won’t need to offload to a compute server.”

SPARC, of course, has such a profile by now that it’s one of the five enterprise processor families in the Charon emulation offering. SPARC made its debut in 1987, the same year that the Hewlett-Packard RISC systems rolled into the commercial market space. Those PA-RISC systems are also emulated by a Charon product.

The launch year of 1992 represents a different marker for hardware capabilities. The SPARCstation 10, when you can find a working one, includes a four-processor model running at a rocking 45MHz. Imagine, up to 500 MB of memory and 848 MB of internal storage.  Plus a 1.4 MB floppy. All for $40,000. From such modest top-end specs rose the SPARC millions of today.


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