Chronology of Workstation Computers

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References are numbered in [brackets], which are listed here. A number after the dot gives the page in the source.

Last updated: 2022 April 29.


July 8
  • Sun Microsystems introduces its first SPARC-based system, the Sun-4/260, with 10 MIPS performance. Sun announces it is offering licenses for its SPARC microprocessor architecture. [160] [171.80] [176.75] [2025.D3] (October [174.56]) (late 1986 [606.37])
  • Market share of Technical/Engineering workstations: Sun Microsystems 21.0%, DEC 23.1%, Apollo 19.3%, HP 14.6%, IBM 6.8%. [307.222]
  • Sales of workstation computers worldwide during the year: US$2.6 billion. [2173.S3.1]


  • Sun Microsystems and AT&T announce the intention to set a standard for UNIX. [1299.369]
  • Motorola unveils the 88000 processor. [160]
  • A consortium of seven companies, including IBM, announce the Open Software Foundation to develop the UNIX standard. [1299.369]
(month unknown)
  • Sun Microsystems ships its 100,000th workstation computer. [1137.9]
  • NeXT begins negotiations with Businessland for a possible deal to sell NeXT computers outside of the education market. [734.201]
  • Massachusettes Institute of Technology releases the X v11 windowing system. [707.207]
  • SPEC is formed, with the aim of producing a Unix system benchmark based on a standard set of real-life applications programs. [156]
(month unknown)
  • An engineering task force at Digital Equipment begins project Alpha, to develop a new processor architecture to succeed the VAX. [2027.61] [754.141] (begins in mid-1989 [661.7])
October 12
  • Steve Jobs of NeXT Inc. unveils the first NeXT computer, at the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. For US$6500, it features: 25 MHz Motorola 68030 processor and 68882 math coprocessor, 8 MB RAM, 17-inch monochrome monitor, 256 MB read/write magneto-optical drive, and object-oriented NeXTSTEP operating system. It is dubbed the "Cube" because its system box measures 1 foot on all sides. [2028] [170.65] [2029.76] [203.7] [206.289] [2030] [346.280] [734.14,162,166] [2031] [2605.208] (August [2032])
  • Steve Jobs begins persuading Lotus Development to develop the Improv spreadsheet program for the NeXT computer. [734.266]
(month unknown)
  • Quote by Bill Gates, of Microsoft, on Steve Jobs' introduction of the NeXT computer: "He put a microprocessor in a box. So what?". [734.14]
  • Quote by Bill Gates, of Microsoft, when asked if he would develop software for the NeXT computer: "Develop for it? I'll piss on it.". [734.14]
  • Shipments of Unix-based systems in Italy for the year: 30,000, worth US$548 million. [1069.18]
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  • Sales of workstation computers worldwide during the year: US$4.1 billion. [2173.S3.1]
  • Shipments of workstations worldwide during the year: IBM 180,000. [2173.S3.1]
  • Market share of workstation shipments worldwide for the year: Sun Microsystems 38.3%, Digital Equipment 23.1%, Apollo 16.7%, Hewlett-Packard 10.6%, IBM 2.4%, other 8.9%. [2173.S3.1]


  • Digital Equipment introduces its first RISC-based workstation, the DECstation 3100, using the 16.7 MHz R2000 MIPS Technologies processor. Performance is 14.3 MIPS. [156] [160] [1084.201] [2138.D7]
  • Quote from Sun Microsystem's Scott McNealy when asked what he thought of the NeXT Cube: "... it's the wrong operating system, the wrong processor, and the wrong price.". [734.212]
  • NeXT announces a deal with Businessland to sell NeXT computers outside of the education market. [734.201,208]
April 12
  • Sun Microsystems announces the SPARCstation 1 workstation computer. It features 20 MHz processor, no disk drive, black-and-white screen, and Open Look graphical interface. Performance is 12.5 MIPS. Base price is US$9000. Price with color screen and 208 MB hard drive is US$15,500. [16] [176.58] [956] [2140.D1] [2165.D2] [2167.D5]
  • Hewlett-Packard agrees to acquire Apollo Computer for US$13.125 per share in cash, worth about US$500-600 million. [2033] [2119.D4] [2168.D4] [2170.D5]
  • Solbourne Computers Incorporated is the first to announce a line of SPARC-based Sun-compatible computers. [171.80] (1988 [2034.81])
May 30
  • Sun Microsystems announces an agreement for Toshiba to develop computers based on Sun's Sparc microprocessor and Sun's version of Unix. [2210.D6]
June 12
  • Canon announces it will invest US$100 million in Next for 16.67 percent share of the company, and will distribute the Next computer in Japan and Asia. [734.218] [2124.D1] [2605.101,210]
June 21
  • Sun Microsystems licenses Datatech Enterprises and Tatung of Taiwan to make personal computers based on the Sparc processor. [2127.D4]
(month unknown)
  • SPARC International is formed. [171.80]
  • Data General unveils its Aviion workstation line, based on the Motorola 88000. [160]
July 12
  • Digital Equipment introduces the DECstation 2100 computer. It features 12.5 MHz R2000 processor, 8 MB RAM, 15 inch monochrome 1024x864 monitor, Ethernet, mouse, keyboard, Ultrix Workstation Software operating system, SoftPC DOS emulator. Price is US$7950. Performance is 10.4 MIPS. [1069.49] [1084.201] [2131.33] [2136.D4] [2138.D7]
  • In Tokyo, Canon introduces the NeXT Computer. Price is about US$14,000. An optional 660 MB hard drive adds US$14,000. [1069.26]
July 26
  • Hewlett-Packard announces it will license its PA-RISC architecture to Hitachi, and will jointly develop a new higher-speed chip set. [2145.D4]
August 8
  • Hewlett-Packard announces it will license its RISC computer design to Samsung Electronics for use in workstation computers. [2221.D4]
(month unknown)
  • Absoft introduces a FORTRAN 77 compiler for NeXT systems. Price is US$1000. [1084.66]
  • To date, there are about 4 to 5 million Unix users worldwide. [1089.364]
  • Cypress Semiconductor introduces the 40 MHz 7C601 RISC processor, based on Sun Microsystem's SPARC design. Performance is about 29 MIPS. Price is US$895 in 100 unit quantities. [1084.18]
  • Hewlett-Packard's Apollo division introduces the Apollo 2500 workstation. It features 20 MHz Motorola 68030 processor, 20 MHz 68882 math coprocessor, 4 MB RAM, 15 inch 1024x768 monochrome monitor, keyboard, mouse, Unix System V release 3. Price is US$3990. Price with 200 MB SCSI hard drive and Domain/OS operating system is about US$3990. [1064.94] [1056.49] [1084.8] [1176.30]
  • Hewlett-Packard announces a US$3990 UNIX workstation based on the Motorola 68030. [2033]
  • NeXT ships the first NeXT Computer systems. [206.289] [2024] [1064.145]
September 18
  • NeXT releases NeXTSTEP v1.0. [206.289] [2024] [1064.145] [2605.208]
  • SPEC releases version 1.0 of its SPEC Benchmark Suite for Unix systems. [156] [956.6] [541]
  • IBM signs a deal with NeXT to license the NeXTSTEP operating system, for US$10 million. [170.65] (1988 [618.310])
(month unknown)
  • Motorola begins large volume shipments of the 88100 processor. [541]
  • In New York, the Unix Expo is held. [1064.30]
  • Sun Microsystems publishes its SBus i/o bus as an open specification for its workstation computers. [1067.283]
  • IBM demonstrates its new line of RISC System/6000 workstations. [2035]
  • Shipments of Sun Microsystems SPARC workstations for the year: 45,000. [171.80]
  • Workstation market share: Sun Microsystems 28.7%, Hewlett-Packard/Apollo 26.4%, Digital Equipemnt 15.9%, Intergraph 6.0%, Silicon Graphics 5.0%, IBM 1.8%, others 16.0%. [2036.86]


  • Sun Microsystems signs an agreement to transfer the SPARC trademark to SPARC International. [171.80]
  • NeXT decides to redesign the NeXT computer, targeting a cheaper computer to be available by the fall. [734.253]
  • NeXT co-founder Dan'l Lewin resigns from NeXT. He is the first of the original five co-founders to resign. [734.255] [2605.211]
February 15
  • IBM unveils its new RISC-based workstation line, the RS/6000. Development work had been done under code name "America" for the RISC chip research, and "RIOS" for systems using the America technology. The architecture of the systems is given the name POWER, standing for Performance Optimization With Enhanced RISC. [205.116] [734.282] [2036.86]
  • Toshiba unveils the first SPARC laptop, the SPARC LT. [171.80]
(month unknown)
  • Lotus Development introduces the Improv spreadsheet program for the NeXT Computer. Price is US$695. [1095.147]
  • Quote by James Clark, chairman of Silicon Graphics, on NeXT: "They're dead meat.". [2037.52]
September 18
  • At the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, NeXT unveils three new NeXT computers, including the NeXTstation using a Motorola 68040 processor. [170.66] [206.289] [734.261] [2037.50] [2605.210] (October [170.65])
  • At the Microprocessor Forum, Motorola announces a new line of single-chip RISC processors, the first of which is to be the 88110. [205.81] [2038] [1073]
  • IBM demonstrates the NeXTSTEP operating system running on an IBM RS/6000 workstation. [734.283]
  • Sun Microsystems unveils its SPARCstation 2 series, starting at roughly US$20,000. [18]
  • LSI Logic announces the availability of SparcKIT, a SPARC chipset at speeds of 20 MHz and 25 MHz. [171.80]
  • Market share of workstation computers: Sun Microsystems, 29.1%; Hewlett-Packard, 22.7%; DEC, 17.7%. [167.13]
  • Shipments of Sun Microsystems workstations for the year: 130,000. [171.80]
  • Shipments of IBM RISC System/6000 computers for the year: 25,000. [2039.13]
  • During the year, IBM earns US$1 billion in revenue from sales of 25,000 RISC System/6000s. [2039.13]

End of 1987-1990. Next: 1991.
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1968-1986 1987-1990 1991-1992 1993 1994 1995-1998 1999-end

A list of references to all source material is available.

Other web pages of interest:

  • Chronology of Personal Computers
  • This Day in Personal Computer and Video Game History
  • This Day in History

  • Last updated: 2022 April 29.
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