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Sony NEWS workstation: 2x 68030 @ 25 MHz, 1280x1024 256-color display
Sony NWS-3710 front
Sony NWS-3710 front detail
Sony NWS-3710 with front door open
Rear view of the Sony NWS-3710

The Sony NEWS (Network Engineering Workstation) was a series of Unix workstations sold during the late 1980s and 1990s. The first NEWS machine was the NWS-800, which originally appeared in Japan in January 1987 and was conceived as a desktop replacement for the VAX series of minicomputers.[1][2]



The NEWS project leader, Toshitada Doi, originally wanted to develop the computer for business applications, but his engineers wanted to develop a replacement for minicomputers running Unix that they preferred to use:[3]

In the beginning, Doi's concept of the workstation was a device, which was essentially an extension of current MIPS projects. He saw it as consisting of "a 32-bit CPU developed in a short time with unrestricted applications." Basically, he thought of it as an OA computer. However, the engineers Doi selected for his team did not listen to what Doi told them to do. They wanted to develop a workstation that could replace the VAX Super Mini Computer developed by Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC). This was a computer that the engineers often fought with each other to use while at MIPS because of the limited number. They wanted to develop something they themselves could use for their own day to day work.

Initial development of the NEWS was completed in 1986 after only one year of development. It launched at a lower price than competitors (¥950,000 to ¥2.75 million), and it outperformed conventional minicomputers.[3] After a successful launch, the line expanded and the new focus for the NEWS became desktop publishing and CAD/CAM.[3]


The Sony NEWS was unable to break into the U.S. market, where Sun Microsystems was dominant, and also did not fare well in Europe.[3]

The NEWS platform was later used for video-on-demand applications, and for Internet server applications.

The NEWS division at Sony was dissolved in 1998.


The Sony NEWS originally came equipped with a dual 680x0 (68020 or 68030) processor configuration running at 16-25 MHz, later shifting to the MIPS R3000 and R4000 RISC microprocessors.

Both 680x0 and MIPS models shared the same case, which had a large door covering a floppy drive and a 5.25-in expansion bay which could house a SCSI tape or CD-ROM drive. The details of the door were slightly different: two windows for the 680x0 models while the MIPS ones had a single large window. Also hidden by the cover were a reset button and a series of DIP switches used to configure some bootup parameters.

On the back were 3 expansion slots, one of which normally housing a video card. Underneath those were the connectors for SCSI, network (an AUI connector), serial (CH0, normally used for console, and CH1), parallel, and a keyboard.



Originally the Sony NEWS team had to decide between BSD and AT&T Unix System V. The project leader was interested in the potential commercial support for System V, but the engineering team preferred BSD because it had rich networking features including TCP/IP. Eventually BSD was chosen because they believed that computer networks would be important in the future.[4]

NEWS-OS releases were based on three different versions of Unix:[5]

  • NEWS-OS 1.x: 4.2BSD, Shift JIS, introduced in 1987.
  • NEWS-OS 2.x: 4.2BSD, Shift JIS, introduced in 1987.
  • NEWS-OS 3.x: 4.3BSD, EUC, introduced in 1988.
  • NEWS-OS 4.x: 4.3BSD, EUC, introduced in 1990.
  • NEWS-OS 5.x: SVR4.2, EUC, introduced in 1992.
  • NEWS-OS 6.x: SVR4.2, EUC, introduced in 1993.

Third-party software[edit]

Yukihiro Matsumoto originally began implementing the Ruby programming language on the 4.3BSD-based NEWS-OS 3.x, but later migrated his work to SunOS 4.x, and finally to Linux.[6][7] In 1999, Ruby was known to work across many different operating systems, including NEWS-OS.[8]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]