Sun Founders Hail SPARC Chip's 25 Years as Potent Computer Platform

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2012-11-05 Print this article Print

In 1987, the world was introduced to the Sun-4, the first SPARC-based computer. The decision of a small, brash startup called Sun Microsystems to develop its own microprocessor to compete with much larger suppliers like Intel and Motorola was the beginning of a series of major advances in enterprise IT. On Nov. 1, the Computer History Museum assembled a panel of SPARC contributors to discuss the past, present and future of the technology—including a look at the early technical and business challenges, the critical role of software, and the risks and rewards of developing increasingly powerful chips. The panel consisted of Bill Joy, a partner at the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers venture capital firm and cofounder of Sun Microsystems; Andy Bechtolsheim, chairman and chief development officer of Arista Networks and cofounder at Sun; David Patterson, professor of computer science and director of the Parallel Computing Lab at UC Berkeley; Anant Agrawal, a venture consultant and former Sun executive; Bernie Lacroute, partner emeritus at Kleiner Perkins and a former Sun executive; and Rick Hetherington, vice president of hardware development systems at Oracle. The moderator was David House, chairman of Brocade and a CHM board member. All four co-founders of Sun were represented either live or virtually; Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist, was at the event in person, and former CEO and Chairman Scott McNealy sent a video greeting. Here is an infographic outlining in detail the history of SPARC. This slide show offers highlights of the event.


Sign of the Times

Sun Microsystems, having no previous experience in designing and developing a microprocessor, launched its first SPARC chip in 1987. Twenty-five years later, it is still the No. 1 chip used in Unix systems worldwide and remains a multibillion dollar business for Oracle.

Sign of the Times

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