Valley Tale: "Jurassic Park" To Extinct

SGI gobbled up for a song

By Scott Budman
|  Wednesday, Apr 1, 2009  |  Updated 2:00 PM PDT
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Valley Tale: "Jurassic Park" To Extinct

AP

Once ruling the world of technology, SGI is now, sadly, a relic.

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In a land famous for watching small companies grow into world leaders, it is with sadness that  we report about a one-time Silicon Valley giant, whose machines roamed the earth, that has now vanished.

It's hard to find someone who has not been touched by SGI's technology. 

Not long ago, it was built in to the Hollywood machine, with its workstations as common in big-budget movies as highly paid actors.  For a movie fan like myself, the list is staggering:  blockbusters like Star Wars (episode 1), The Matrix, Jurassic Park, Lord of The Rings, and Terminator 2, as well as smaller personal favorites like The Crow, and Star ship Troopers.  All boosted by SGI-created special effects.

SGI created a lot of jobs, made investors wealthy and boasted a gigantic Silicon Valley campus that was both the envy and goal of other technology firms. 
 
It was one of the early companies that made geek chic and technology cool.  As someone once told me, after Jurassic Park came out, wearing the SGI logo on his shirt became less a badge of nerd-dom, and more of a cool conversation piece. 
 
For me, personally, SGI was the very first tech company I covered, almost 15 years ago.
 
But it didn't last.  SGI's workstations, like some of the dinosaurs they created, were big and cumbersome, compared with the smaller and more nimble competitors that followed. 
 
As movie making became less expensive and more open to everybody, filmmakers found it possible to create high-end special effects with cheaper, smaller computers.  SGI's machines were no longer necessary, and the company did not adapt fast enough.  It's stock price tumbled, layoffs mounted, and even a last-ditch comeback attempt from a 2006 bankruptcy filing didn't pan out.
 
The gigantic campus is now populated by an ever-growing number of Googlers, some of whom weren't even in their teens when SGI computers ruled the roost.  In what would once have qualified as an April Fool's Day joke to us tech old-timers, SGI announced that it was once again going into bankruptcy, but this time, there won't be a comeback: the company will sell its assets to a Silicon Valley rival, Rackable Systems, for a paltry 25 million dollars.
 
It's a sad legacy for a company whose technology inspired people to get into the tech field, or whose special effects inspired people to learn about technology in the first place.  A cautionary tale about why big companies should indeed be paranoid, SGI still leaves behind a cool legacy here in the Valley, as well as some fantastic DVDs.
 
 

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