My machine is an first-generation one, which has 32-bit MIPS processor R3000 on 33 MHz (there is a second generation of the machine which sports a much more advanced R4000 at 100 MHz – that’s the 64-bit processor, one of the first that were used in desktop computers). The Indigo was introduced in 1991. My one is from 1992 or so.
The full specification of the machine are (according to the output ot the hinv command):
1 33 MHZ IP12 Processor FPU: MIPS R2010A/R3010 VLSI Floating Point Chip Revision: 4.0 CPU: MIPS R2000A/R3000 Processor Chip Revision: 3.0 On-board serial ports: 2 On-board bi-directional parallel port Data cache size: 32 Kbytes Instruction cache size: 32 Kbytes Main memory size: 48 Mbytes Integral Ethernet: ec0, version 0 Integral SCSI controller 0: Version WD33C93B, revision C Tape drive: unit 3 on SCSI controller 0: DAT Disk drive: unit 2 on SCSI controller 0 Disk drive: unit 1 on SCSI controller 0 Iris Audio Processor: revision 10 Graphics board: GR2-XS24
The GR2-XS24 graphics board is quite advanced for its time. It supports 24-bit colors, some 2D and 3D acceleration and make machine to feel to be fast. It’s only drawback is absence of a Z-buffer hardware (it makes some 3D thing slower and, surprisingly, even erratic: for example graphics in the Battalion is a bit incorrect). By the way, the graphics supports 1280×1024 resolution at max.
My machine came with IRIX 5.3 preinstalled and it can run it very well. The GUI is snappy and responsible and it’s low CPU speed and small memory is only noticeable when something large has to be computed.
Of course, I didn’t tried to run softare like the Mozilla/Firefox or the OpenOffice (it simply does not run here) and even not the Netscape. But Adobe Acrobat Reader (3.0.x line) runs well. Also GNU Octave (2.0.5) works quite nicely and there is also things like Gnuplot. I also compiled my own software and it runs flawlesly and on a decent speed (for small data, of course). But I only tried a GLUT-based version as I am lazy to install Gtk+ (and I don’t believe that anything based on the Gtk+ can be fast os any SGI).
There are also some 3D packages that can run here – of course old versions have to be used (a Blender 1.x, and old AC3D to mention these less or more freely available).
For Internet tasks I have installed the Lynx (yes, there were times when computers were shipped without Internet browsers pre-installed.. you may remember…). It’s enough for the machine as it can access gopher:// and http:// (and for such machine, the Gopher is more useful today, in my opinion).
A quite bad news are that there is a lack of modern text editors. The Vim can be fond precompiled only in the version 3.0 which is quite limited (no syntax highlighting and so). Fortunately, at the ftp.nekochan.net (in the folder of the user foetz) is a NEdit in quite modern version (5.6). It needs a long time to start (about twenty seconds) but then it is fast and it supports lot of things (including syntax highlighting).
The computer itself is relatively quiet (and extremely quiet for being a SGI workstation). I found that it can be used for a lot of things: writing of texts, small programming (C/Fortran/…), typeseting of documents (in TeX, for example) , for some computing (there is an Octave for that) and for many other tasks (there are some pre-installed applications for sound editing and 3D graphics so some people can use also these applications).
If you will get the Indigo then it is recommended to visit Megarat’s Indigo site not only for tips and tricks but also for a software archive.