SGI Indigo 2 Workstation

This was bought in ~1999 as a tool to write my Computing Science undergraduate final year project: “A multi-threaded, multi-platform VOIP application for Unix systems”.

I bought it configured as follows:

  • MIPS R10000 195MHz CPU
  • 256MB RAM
  • Solid IMPACT graphics option (wireframe/flat-shaded 3D acceleration)

I used the Indigo 2 through my industrial work placement year and the final year at University - ultimately gaining my degree and putting me on the path to a career in Unix (and Linux) technologies.

Over the years (before going in to storage in ~2010) it acquired a few upgrades:

  • 896MB RAM
  • 73GB SCSI HDD on a SCA to SCSI-2 adapter
  • Phobos G160 Fast Ethernet card
  • Max IMPACT graphics option (fully textured 3D acceleration)
  • Side-mount feet

New, in the early to mid 1990's, that specification would have been well over $55000 (yes, fifty-five thousand US Dollars!)

As with a lot of my possessions, the Indigo 2 went in to storage around 2010 and was not used for 10 years. It was transported to various places, put in multiple attics and then finally brought out to be set up in my newly extended garage workshop.

The first time in ten years it was powered on it switched on okay, but I failed to get any video out of the system (they output a sync-on-green signal, so only specific monitors will work with them - but that was okay, I had a Dell U2410 which supported it)…. eventually after leaving it running for some time it brought the video to life, but showed errors relating to the SCSI bus.

Leaving the error screen and entering the lovely SGI PROM environment I could see that it was at least partially healthy:

Since it wouldn't boot I took the disk out and immediately saw the issue:

The SCA to SCSI-2 adapter I had fitted years ago was so tight in the disk sled housing that the ribbon cable was being forced against the metal sides of the bay. Removing it once too often has caused at least one of the outer wires in the cable to fray.

Fortunately I do have a second disk sled, so I'll try swapping the disk to that one.

[Update - June 30th 2021] - Swapping the drive to the second caddy which didn't have the cable damage definitely solves it. It immediately starts to boot Irix:

  • blog/sgi_indigo2.txt
  • Last modified: 2021/06/30 19:01
  • by john