@calvin @coryw that sort of makes sense by US marketing standards. From memory outside of unis and specialist tech businesses Unix workstations weren't that much a thing in UK, the only company I worked for which tried using them (in that case Sun) to replace IBM mainframes running COBOL/CICS failed badly and the h/w was later sold off quite cheap (but only full on techs/Unix heads were able to get it working and by that time commodity priced PC's were common)
@vfrmedia @calvin RE UNIX in that company, workstations were often sold as accompaniments and dev/test systems for big servers, and Sun was trying Very Hard™ to get into the enterprise "money counting machines" market, and a big advantage they cited was giving devs/admins the same hardware the servers were on. Not strictly necessary with SSH, but still nice, especially before virtualization on non-IBM stuff was common.
@coryw @calvin that would explain exactly what my former employers were trying to do; but the incoming data sets were in a mess anyway and errors between them and the paper files so the project was abandoned in mid 90s. They were still using the IBM system (maybe with more screenscraping of the 3270 emulator) in the mid 2000s, thats what the last staff told me just before all the admin work got bangalored..
19:56 < coryw> which has like datasheet templates and a copy of the Gill Sans font for the Octane
19:58 < coryw> to address the affordability issue: Whether or not this is true of HP in that particular era, SGI and Sun did have on-file $5000 workstation configs at various points, and it wouldn't surprise me if some showed up in university bookstores.
@calvin @vfrmedia I need to get out that CD actually, Gill Sans was SGI's choice for headings on papers media at the time, if I remember correctly. The idea of this CD in part was that your dealership (you might specialize in selling particular solutions) would elucidate the Octane/O2's suitability for those solutions on that sheet, which is why they sent you blank datasheets to fill in. I'll have to get them out and make some.
@calvin @coryw there were Sun workstations at my Uni in around 1991/2 (I managed to get onto Usenet etc using those as well which the profs really didn't like, as it involved bypassing the geoblocks on the UK academic net JANet
Back then it was a strange thing which didn't even have normal DNS and all the domains were backwards i.e uk.ac.spunkbridge.* instead of *.spunkbridge.ac.uk
@calvin @vfrmedia Sorry, I hope all these replies make any sense. To talk to the $5000 (US) price point, it was more common later on, here's a good article that talks about the experience of one of those baseline configs in 1998 http://www.osnews.com/story/5743/My_Sun_Ultra_5_And_Me_A_Geek_Odyssey
SGI had a $5000 O2 config meant for web authoring in 1996-1997, and I'm sure there was a $5000 Indy but it was meant as a diskless netboot station, booting off an origin and being front-end to an Origin.
@vfrmedia @calvin To add to the affordability thing, I don't know what student lending was like in the '90s, but I know in the '00s (I was a student 06-12) it would have been pretty easy to get your hands on financing to buy $5-10,000 worth of computer. I had been trying to justify a Mac Pro, I knew plenty of people who did have around that much hardware, whether for a particular need for for gaming.
TBH most UK students got a £300-£500 laptop running Windows XP/7 or if they were especially unlucky Vista. I think Redmond heavily subsided MS Office provided you could prove you were attending some kind of college/uni (they *did* have some validation, probably a big list of colleges and unis and schools that the UK govt sent them which would of course be used or marketing) which is why MS has such a stranglehold to this day on UK academic circles.
Office 2007 was available (US) to students for $70 in a program known as "Ultimate Steal" but some colleges sold it locally under their agreements w/ MS for like $10, even before that. Today, there are similarly big edu discounts, but you can also buy Office "Home & Student" cheap, without any proof.
One of the other things that improved a *lot* that means most students aren't running out buying expensive hardware is remote access to applications. My school provided a 24/7 computer lab up to this last year (TBH I'm still angry we don't have one any more) probably under the justification that anyone can get a netbook and use VPN+RDP to get the apps they need, which while technically true is sort of not the point.
@coryw @calvin netbooks have not been widely sold for a few years, chromebooks (if they do RDP at all) are sources of distracting adware/adtech and a *small* laptop is bloody expensive (more so than a large one)
As an engineer I too dislike it when tech is used merely to *reduce* costs and/or human access to a useful thing (such as education) rather than increase that access..
@vfrmedia @calvin I would argue that any small atom-based laptop from the past few years is "basically a netbook, even if not in name." There are usually a few on sale at Walmart/Target or Best Buy. Things like the Lenovo 100 and some of the lower Inspiron 3000 series, especially in the ever popular 2/32 config.
Heck, I'd say that the Surface 3 toes the line in the same way the original RT did.
@coryw @calvin ah, we don't get these quite as often here in the UK (British Walmart is called Asda and I've not seen a whole computer sold there for years (they did use to sell them) and when I do see a computer in a mainstream store its usually a 15,6" "family" laptop often used as desktop replacement. Might be cultural thing, or simply that profit margins are so thin the mfrs aren't interested in non US market due to the extra keyboards required)
@coryw @calvin one of my friends in SE England had one of those SGI boxes in about 2003; it had either been given away to him or sold for about £50 by a former employer who went bust. I think it was that Indy as we tried to get it to do something like a "normal" Linux box but it was clearly looking for a bigger server to connect or some proprietary software that he didn't have..
@vfrmedia @calvin That's close to when I got my Indy, I was able to get someone to send me the CDs for it and eventually upgraded to an Octane, but the thing you start to notice as you get more powerful SGIs is that as the '90s wore on, interest in making anything "regular" for them dropped, probably because it had become affordable for companies to give anyone who needed a workstation a regular business PC or Mac as well. (Sun's solution to this was a PC on a PCI card you could install.)
@calvin @vfrmedia So, the SGI Octane I had was actually pretty swole for 1997, but there's not an awful lot of practical work I was able to do on it. Calvin and I's friend @tsundoku spent a few years making IRIX his primary environment, mostly by porting OSS stuff to it. Although the OSS got EOLed in IIRC 2013 so he's since switched to solaris and FreeBSD.
@vfrmedia @calvin Idly, most UNIX workstations from the era can be configured stand-alone, but this is a use for the ISDN modems in many '90s workstations I had not considered: dialing "home" to do things like update your homedir and receive management directives from the network. I don't know if any were used that way or if it was just a fancy checkbox feature that didn't cost a lot to include but was important because of ~multimedia~. (DEC systems with ISDN use it for their sound I/o IIRC)
Outside of these (including much of UK) it was
uncommon or if you got it at all it was used to share internet over LAN like todays ADSL routers.
My main memories of ISDN were having to be careful recovering kit from disused buildings, as BT would cease service but leave the line powered and when you powered down the NTE the pairs received -120V rather than -48V!