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Graphics Workstations

Apollo Domain workstation

Apollo, based in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, was a major player in networked graphical workstations for much of the 1980s.

Graphics Workstations

Early computers were mostly text-based machines. Yet design is a highly visual activity. To help bridge that gap, companies developed specially designed graphical workstations.

Research groups and universities built the first workstations, such as MIT’s 1970s LISP Machine. Large corporations were key customers for graphical workstations, using them for electronic and mechanical design because personal computers were too slow and lacked sophisticated graphics.

As personal computers grew more powerful, however, the rationale for dedicated workstations eroded. In the 1990s software companies began adapting design applications for PCs using Windows.

DEC RTVAX 3300 in laboratory use

This publicity photo shows a “Real Time VAX” being used to acquire data in a laboratory. Other applications included automation of manufacturing plants and control of particle accelerators in physics labs.

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Apollo DN550 poster

The Apollo DN550 workstation was one of the most powerful graphics workstations available in the 1980s, leading to the natural comparison to a sportscar!

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Apollo Domain DN300 processor/display, disk drive and keyboard

Apollo’s first microprocessor-based graphical workstation shipped in 1981. Later machines used a proprietary bit-slice processor. Applications included simulation, VLSI design and AI. Apollo suffered from having used proprietary operating systems and networks and was eventually acquired by HP.

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