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Silicon Graphics, Inc. (later rebranded SGI, historically known as Silicon Graphics Computer Systems or SGCS) was an American high-performance computing manufacturer, producing computer hardware and software. Founded in Mountain View, California in November 1977 by Jim Clark, its initial market was 3D graphics computer workstations, but its products, strategies and market positions developed significantly over time.

Early systems were based on the Geometry Engine that Clark and Marc Hannah had developed at Stanford University, and were derived from Clark's broader background in computer graphics. The Geometry Engine was the first very-large-scale integration (VLSI) implementation of a geometry pipeline, specialized hardware that accelerated the "inner-loop" geometric computations needed to display three-dimensional images. For much of its history, the company focused on 3D imaging and were a major supplier of both hardware and software in this market.

They reincorporated as a Delaware corporation in January 1990. Through the mid to late-1990s, the rapidly improving performance of commodity Wintel machines began to erode SGI's stronghold in the 3D market. The porting of Maya to other platforms is a major event in this process. SGI made several attempts to address this, including a disastrous move from their existing MIPS platforms to the Intel Itanium, as well as introducing their own Linux-based Intel IA-32 based workstations and servers that failed in the market. In the mid-2000s the company repositioned itself as a supercomputer vendor, a move that also failed.

History

Silicon Graphics logo

Silicon Graphics logo with distinctive 3-D box "bug"

Early years

James H. Clark left his position as an electrical engineering associate professor at Stanford University to found SGI in 1982 along with a group of seven graduate students and research staff from Stanford: Kurt Akeley, David J. Brown, Tom Davis, Rocky Rhodes, Marc Hannah, Herb Kuta, and Mark Grossman

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