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Article is a bit confused, would be better to logically seperate random historical bits from the general concept. Workstation also implies a Unix OS or at least something with a compiler - as opposed to a Windows Desktop.

This Article is All Wrong[edit]

A Workstation is a location, usually containing furniture of table height, where a worker performs a specific task. i.e. a Jeweller making Jewellery (UK spelling there btw), or a factory working at an assembly point.

It is NOT a Computer, and I think this distinction should be made by this article being renamed to 'Computer Workstation'. Jaruzel (talk) 09:38, 11 September 2013 (UTC)


This article needs cleanup. The article needs to clarify the following:

  • General non-OS specific definition of the term.
  • Use of term amoung Unix/Linix computers.
  • Use of term amoung in the Windows and Mac OS X worlds, as in "Windows NT Workstation".
  • Workstations as computers used for specific tasks, such as imaging, video creation, local or remote control or monitoring of machines, devices, etc., (see definition: [1]).

--Cab88 23:30, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

But... It helps to have general agreement on what a workstation is, or is not[edit]

I agree. But keep in mind that this is a relatively complex topic, and that a lot of meaning is bound up in the word "workstation". All at once, its a hardware specification and/or performance criterion, operating system choice, and specific application software deployment, all on one machine.

Also, Microsoft helped pollute things by tacking on "Workstation" to their operating systems, as if to suggest that NT would turn a PC into a workstation, which it most definitely does not. They have also done this with their use of "Engineer" in their MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) diploma. They only stopped when professional engineering regulatory organizations told them to cease and desist. Just about anything that company does mars the technical purity of things.

More to the point, with hardware improvements in PC's to support better multitasking, and with multiple processors, and the rise of Linux on the desktop, many people feel that Linux on powerful PC hardware constitutes a workstation, which some people would go along with, and others would not.

So you see, its hard to do an article like this, when there is not clear consensus on what a workstation is in 2006, vs. what it was in 1986, when the first Apollo workstations came out, based on my reading of the history of technical workstations. I have used Sun workstations for years, and love them for doing any serious technical work, but I also know I could do most of it on a Linux PC if I had to, as long as I don't push it too hard and cause something to crash.

When time permits, I will try to re-organize this article. But you know, I have been searching the net for a while, trying to find an authoritative definition of what exactly a workstation is and is not, how it compares to a fast PC, etc. etc. Its ironic that I may end up being one of the authors of such a document. I find it hard to believe there are not others who would have already done a bang-up job of this, better than I could do...

--SanjaySingh 05:11, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

I would suggest the following then. Start with the dictionary definition and show how this derived from the 1980's concept of a workstation computer (Unless their where "workstation" computers before then I am not aware of). Then discuss how the workstation hardware of the past was generally more powerful then the average PC and how modern powerful PC's have blurred the distinction. The way the label "workstation" is used in the modern day should be discussed. The Microsoft use of the term in the "NT Workstation" OS can be discussed separately as it seems to relate to not relate to the dictionary and hardware based definitions but it is more about the OS capabilities and intended audience. --Cab88 22:53, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

this definitely needs to be cleaned up. i don't understand the difference between a PC and a workstation

The reason you can't see the difference is that, today, there really isn't one. It's a distinction without a real difference. Frankly, it seems to me that the only people who make the distinction really are more interested in making a prestige-oriented distinction about themselves. The equipment/platform is only a symbol. A modern PC is just as powerful and capable, in principle, as any of the "workstations" that Sanjay is attempting to differentiate it from. A PC can run some version of Unix (Linux or FreeBSD), it has a powerful processor, lots of memory, advanced graphics, etc., etc.

The only thing that makes sense for this article is to express it all in the past tense. The distinctions that remain, such as they are, have more to do with software than with hardware, and those distinctions seem mostly of the snobbish sort, not any real technical issues. The definition of words like "engineer" has nothing whatever to do with this question, it's just a slam against Microsoft. (The person who picks up your garbage is probably called a "sanitation engineer"... so what?) Windows can multi-thread just as well as Unix, perhaps even better. The "workstation" has become a commodity. Deal with it. The word has as much currency as was the old term "mini-computer", which today is a meaningless anachronism. -- RussHolsclaw 00:50, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

Many industries provide their workers with workstations, regardless of whether or not they employ computers in their work. An article on computer workstations should, IMO, specify computers. It's elitist, again IMO, and misleading to insist in an encyclopedia article that the term "workstation" applies not only just to computers, but to a specific subset of computers. Note also that the office furniture industry is also marketing specialized furniture for computers as computer workstations. Georgia Yankee (talk) 19:37, 6 June 2011 (UTC)

Does anyone in this discussion (other than me) actually USE PC's, workstations, for technical work?[edit]

Some comments for Russ. Call me an elitist if you like, thats perfectly fine. But I am within my rights to suggest that you don't see a distinction between PC's and workstations, cause you don't push the machine hard enough to see any differences.

The system level architecture of a typical PC is designed for low-cost, NOT multitasking. I know from experience. Its possible to have computational jobs running in the background on a Sun workstation and the machine still remains usable. On a PC, it bogs down and becomes unwieldy to use. Its not about the CPU, its about the design of everything else. One PCI chipset for 6 slots; small caches, IDE drives... everything made to run one thing at a time. No crossbar switch architecture, no SCSI, no balanced I/O for multiple tasks moving information in multiple directions at once.

This is a mix of facts and rather odd conjecture. Yes, PCs are cost-driven. So are workstations. The specific technical solutions used in PCs differ from those used in workstations, but PCs multitask just fine (OS software allowing) and can do plenty of real-time rendering jobs workstations would have been very hard-pressed to match. (FPSes with respectable framerates, for example.)

Benchmarks tell you performance in ideal conditions, but PC's under multitasking loads do not perform anywhere near what the benchmarks would have you expect. There are millions of armchair analysts who are duped by benchmarks, and who think that dividing clock rates through by the cost of the machine makes them smart, when it proves nothing.

People who buy workstations need a machine to do work that scales up to big and complex models. I am not talking about dinky little AutoCAD models. I am talking about things like fighter planes, or space craft, or DNA research, or chip design, or scientific simulation.

This is just a non-sequitur. It makes a workstation sound like a small, cheap supercomputer, which it never was. Workstations were networked machines (largely Ethernet, as opposed to the IBM-oriented SNA or the microcomputer-oriented RS-232) well before non-dialup networking was mainstream. That (hardware and software support for serious networking) was a big part of the workstation world as well.

If you think a 32-bit Pentium 4 can even load in the human genome into memory for speedy sequence analysis, I invite you to try it. The Pentium 4 is a marketing driven processor that only achieves its high clock rates by having a ridiculously long 20-30 stage pipeline, which means that it suffers from pipeline stalls if branch predictions are wrong, and its instructions per cycle is lower than its competition. When you start to push things where the memory access pattern exceeds what the caches will support, things will bog right now, and stay down.

I won't go after this for being dated, but it is and people reading should realize that. Four gigs of RAM and a quad-core 64-bit CPU is a commodity now. It's a rich kid's gaming rig.

Now lets talk about software and related things.

The only reason I mention Microsoft at all is because their use of "workstation" has confused the definition of what workstation hardware is to people that are not familiar with Unix or RISC processors... Microsoft markets inferior operating systems on commodity hardware to the masses, and tells them its a workstation, when its not. I have no idea where you got the notion that Windows multithreading is as efficient as Unix. RISC processors are designed around the idea of multitasking (Sun's register windows), and floating point (DEC Alpha), and multiple processors in one machine. Windows is most certainly not designed from its foundations for these things because the average Windows user does not do jobs that require hours of number crunching while still acting as a server on a network, and also a graphics console. You CANNOT use Windows for multitasking efficiently, or safely. It will either slow to molasses, or crash. You do ONE thing at a time on Windows, or else...

Register windows were abandoned in the SPARC line after it was proven they didn't help nearly as much as those massive register spills hurt. Floating-point has been on-die since the 80386 era, at least as an option, and I don't know why he picked out the Alpha as a particular example of it. Windows has always had its problems, mainly due to Microsoft refusing to break older programs by enforcing a coherent security model, but the NT-derived OSes are not especially bad at multitasking. (Windows 2000, XP, and Vista are all NT-derived. 1, 2, 3, 95, 98, 98SE, and ME are MS-DOS-derived.)

Microsoft tries to tell people they are "systems engineers" when they are not engineers at all. I work in an engineering department, where some academic standards apply. Microsoft software is suitable for entertainment. I like playing Team Fortress. But I would not use Windows for anything important like my neural network simulations. And I stand by my contention that Microsoft has polluted the term "workstation" by their frivolous use of that term in their marketing efforts, in the same way they pervert the word "engineer."

We all know the only real engineers drive trains. Whoo whoo! ;)

Linux is very cool, but its a 32-bit hobbyist's operating system for the most part. Since it is community driven in terms of its development, it largely follows the demographics of the majority of its adherents, which means 32-bit x86 single processor hardware remains the most common configuration, and therefore most software will be designed around this assumption. The volatile nature of the kernel means that software often requires recompilation or breaks often, and Linux is not yet ready to scale to 64-bit because both the hardware infrastructure is just now going to 64-bit, while UltraSPARC from Sun has been 64-bit since 1995, and there are few commercial engineering applications that run on Linux, due to its open-source nature, and business viability issues.

This is to laugh. Really. Look at how many companies use Linux and how many architectures it has been ported to. For your information, Linux has been 64-bit since it was ported to the Alpha in the mid-1990s, way back when the Alpha was still relevant. Linux works on computers from Blue Gene to the TiVO and palmtop systems without a hitch. UltraSPARC, on the other hand, is just as obsolete as the SPARC workstations it was built for. Yes, 1980s-era workstation OSes were there first. Linux, on the other hand, is still here today.

Apple's MAC OS X, is BSD Unix under the hood, with a very polished usable interface on top. Its the best consumer level operating system out there. Running on 64-bit hardware, multi-tasking, multiple processors, it lacks only for scalability to large scale server hardware, and technical applications to run on it.

Apple has no real reason to market MacOS X as a high-end server OS because I don't think Apple makes high-end servers. If Apple did, MacOS X (which is based on Mach, by the way) would acquit itself well in that role, I have no doubt.

Solaris 10 is the worlds most advanced and powerful 64-bit operating system, though it might not be the most endearing. It is the most scalable, to hundreds of CPU's, hundreds of gigabytes of RAM, and highest performing, beating even Linux on many standard tests. AND it has hundreds of high-end applications, ranging from PRO/Engineer, CATIA, for 3D Mechnanical design, and Cadence, Synopsys, Mentor Graphics, for Electronic Design Automation. Also, lots of open-source packages can be compiled easily on this hardware and software platform to run on multiple processors at once seamlessly.

Solaris is a cool OS but it lacks the application software support Linux has. Sun is only now getting the open source world and I have high hopes for the software, but it has a long way to go to catch up.

Anyway, despite the less than diplomatic words that have been exchanged thus far, I am glad for the discussion. It means people DO care about this article, and it probably means that when all is said and done, this article will be an authoritative one for people to consult. --SanjaySingh 09:21, 5 April 2006 (UTC)

I don't mind a lack of diplomacy. I do mind a lack of accuracy.

You make some very good points here, Sanjay, along with interesting information concerning bus architectures, etc. I stand corrected. However, I take exception to the invective you posted on my personal "talk" page. I don't think it would generally be regarded as "diplomatic".

Notwishstanding all of that, I was mostly objecting, albeit clumsily, to the irrelevant invective unleashed at Microsoft for "polluting" the word "workstation" here on the discussion page. The fact is that the word has long been used in a much broader sense than the one you attach to it.

In particular, I recall that during the late 1980's IBM (where I worked for 26 years, starting in 1966) made frequent use of the word in a much broader sense. The high-performance type of machine you mention was described as an Engineering/Scientific Workstation, not just a workstation. At the same time, IBM documents made frequent use of the term in its more literal sense, i.e. a machine one stationed oneself at to do work... work of any sort, that is, including spreadsheets and word processing.

In fact, IBM even used the term fixed-function workstation in reference to what is colloquially called a dumb terminal. (No device carrying an IBM trademark could be called "dumb", of course! :-) )

So, if I were to take issue with anything in the Workstation article itself, I suppose it would be the title, and the first sentence, which lays exclusive claim to the general term "workstation" while characterizing other, more specific, appellations as being the "colloquial" ones.

--RussHolsclaw 13:41, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

OK, lets work together on this, and move it forward[edit]

I was reading the supercomputer page recently, and they have an interesting and perhaps usable template for discussing their technology, and I think their structure can be of use in this article. Supercomputers, like workstations are also a moving target, in that the state of the art of 10 years ago is today's run-of-the-mill machine, or even (a pity) a paperweight. I am a big fan of Seymour Cray. He rocked.

I have written up an article for my department, intended to be like a white paper, that discusses in some detail many of the issues we have been going over in this page.

I am glad you mention the "dumb terminal" as a workstation, because technically it is one end of a continuum of computer power. At the other end, would likely sit a deskside machine, whether its an old Apollo workstation, or a Sun Ultra 450 quad processor machine, which just happens to be the entry level of their workgroup servers as well. It would offer additional context in which to consider where desktop machines were, where they are now, and where they are going.

RISC microprocessors were considered a disruptive technology that enabled a significant advance in desktop machines at the time they were introduced into systems. A good article on workstations would need to track the evolution of networked desktop computing from the earliest days of terminals, to the present day distributed networks of workstations.

I know your experience would help with this, because you have seen the evolution of high end hardware... When I read your bio, I was a little shocked to see 26 years of IBM experience. I was 11 or so at the time you began your IT career. I started trying to learn BASIC on the Radio Shack TRS-80 and save my paper route money when I was 12 or 13 to buy my own computer. Eventually I ended up at U. Waterloo, and picked up some computer architecture along the way. I believe that if we pool our knowledge, we can have a bang-up article that will be authoritative, easy to read, and will be referred to by many people who are seeking to understand this class of machine.


--SanjaySingh 03:20, 13 April 2006 (UTC)

Actually, I don't think you read my bio right. I worked for IBM for 26 years, ending 13 years ago. I've been in the business 39 years. I just turned 60 in January. There were no TRS-80's when I started with IBM, just System/360 computers, which I provided support for in those early days. In '76, I built one of the early S-100 bus machines, an IMSAI 8080. Eventually, I got it running CP/M, as soon as I could afford a floppy disk drive for it. They were a bit expensive in those days.

My career with IBM mostly had to do with mainframes, though. I had no contact with Unix until more recent times. I've done a little Unix work in the past few years, but mostly modifying programs written by others. In my mainframe work, I worked on systems that provided remote support to customers. This included devising a protocol for downloading software fixes to System/370 systems, and providing the ability for remote viewing of memory dumps and other software diagnostic data. In fact, this application involved a very early version of base-64 encoding, similar to the type used today to handle email file attachements. That was in about 1973.

One thing I can do is take your "early history" part back a bit further. IBM had an early system of the type that could be called a "scientific workstation" that was introduced in 1959. That was 7 years before I started working for IBM, but the machine was still being sold. It was the IBM 1620. There was another system in 1965, just the year before I joined IBM, called the IBM 1130. The latter machine was built using electronics techology borrowed from the System/360. That was hybrid integrated circuit devices that IBM called Solid Logic Technology, or SLT. --RussHolsclaw 05:14, 15 April 2006 (UTC)

Mac OS X Bit at the end needs updates[edit]

The mention of Mac OS X machines meeting the criteria of workstations, yet it remains to be seen what will happen with the Intel switch part near the end needs updated. It's May 2006 as I write this and Solo and Duo Core Intel processors have been available in iMacs, MacBook Pros, and Mac Minis since February and March (for the latter).

However I don't know the details of the processor or how it counts in this regard. So someone else needs to do it.

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived debate of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the debate was move. Do not revert this move. --Philip Baird Shearer 23:20, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Workstation (computer hardware)Workstation … Rationale: 'Workstation' is a redirect to the longer name article, might as well move it to Workstation. -- Frap 16:44, 12 June 2006 (UTC)


Add *Support or *Oppose followed by an optional one-sentence explanation, then sign your opinion with ~~~~
  • Oppose. The term 'workstation' predates its current use in the computer industry; I believe it first came into use in the early days of assembly line manufacturing but I don't have a verifying citation to back that up. User:Ceyockey (talk to me) 00:44, 13 June 2006 (UTC)
  • Support Following the KISS principle Jay32183 18:35, 21 June 2006 (UTC)


Add any additional comments

If I had seen this debate earlier I would have voted against it. The term workstation is as User:Ceyockey suggests. But as there is no article on that meaning there is no need to disambiguate this page. When an artile on the term workstation is written this page can be moved again. --Philip Baird Shearer 23:20, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

misc obesrvations and suggestions[edit]


i've been musing about some of the same questions being debated here and looked up this article to see what wikipedia folk had to say about them, so i'm not terribly surprised to find the debate.


on definitions:

-- point out that the term "workstation" has had different meanings in different contexts and has evolved over the years.

-- two general concepts of workstation:

-- -- a computer designed to be used interactively by one person at a time that is built using techniques typically used for multi-user computers (servers or timesharing minicomputers depending on the historical period) and puts all the associated perfomance and reliability resources at one user's disposal.

[ note this phrase appears mid-article: "Personal computers, in contrast to workstations, were not designed to bring minicomputer performance to an engineer's desktop, but rather..." ]

-- -- a computer and peripherals deidcated to a specialized use (faxing, laboritory instrumentation monitoring, etc.

an entirely different approach to the definition problem is base the definition not so much on the hardware and software and software architecture, but on the business problem and the user.

AFAIK workstations have typically been asigned to users working on large time-sensitive problems that are important to the organization and/or to users whose time is expensive. in other words, firms spend extra money to put big, fast, reliable boxes in the hands of some users and not others based on business criteria. now, how you go about expressing that concisely is another question.  :-)

Ericfluger 18:57, 11 March 2007 (UTC)

incentives to use workstations[edit]

the article gives some attention to the business incentives to deploy workstations, but i think a bit more is merited. after reading what's there i still have some basic questions that i think are still reasonably in-scope for an encyclopedia article.

[ i recognize that in a business setting almost any criteria for problem solving is ultimatately reducable to cost/revenue considerations, but having said that... ]

i'm wondering if initial popularity of workstations was due to cost-effectiveness of offloading from the mainframe, or whether they simply provided a practical way of doing things that otherwise might have been quite difficult at the time.

IIRC at the time the workstation concept was starting to take hold, connecting multiple high resolution high speed graphics terminals to one mainframe and locating such termials far from the machine room would have been a serious challenge given the data communications technology of the day. using smaller computers with built in frame buffers side-stepped this problem.

i seem to recall reading (long ago) an interview with an early adopter of networked workstation for software development who said that the driving factor was predictable compile compile times (which came at cost of poorer hardware utilization) that made planning and managing projects much more systematic.

i also wonder if there was a "fashion factor". it became the way folks did things for a while. and users who had their own box at one job (or in college lab) and went on to another job wanted the same thing there too.

so i suspect there may have been more considerations than are currently mentioned. Ericfluger 19:56, 11 March 2007 (UTC)

thin clients and workstations[edit]

while it can be hard to say what's a workstation and what isn't, i think it's safe to say there's a distiction to be made between a workstation and thin client FROM A FUNCTIONAL STANDPOINT.

as far as i can tell, workstations generally provide "local applications processing". thin clients don't.

viewed from a hardware-only perspective things get a bit dicier. in some cases the same machine can be configured as either a workstation or a thin client. (sun's only x-terminal was based on entry level workstation hardware. PCs can be configured to work as thin clients in various ways.)

the sun ray ultra thin clients mentioned in the article are clearly not workstations. no workstation hardware, software, or functionality. while sun's new-ish scalable back end graphic technology may now make replacing workstations with thin clients feasable and even attractive, that still doesn't make the thin client "workstation-like".

i suspect it may be best to mention this alternative and link to a separate article rather than explore it in depth.

Ericfluger 19:55, 11 March 2007 (UTC)


Does the phrase "server-level processor" have any objective commonly-accepted meaning in the industry or is it just vacuous PC-magazine-speak? As I recall, every microprocessor chip introduced since the 8085 was said to be "far too powerful for personal computer use and only suitable for servers". Servers...file servers..,don't even need to do floating-point maths. I'm taking it out. --Wtshymanski (talk) 04:44, 27 January 2008 (UTC)

Server level processor usually refers to Xeon and Opteron processors. It also refers to pure server processors such as the Sun UltraSPARC and IBM POWER. As for all servers not needing floating point mathematics, server simply refers to a computer that serves a client. A file server is just a type of server, not definitive of. As for the 8085 "being far too powerful for personal computing and suitable only for servers" please provide a reliable source for that. Back in those days, servers were built on VAX and other proprietary processors. Mainframes too, were big then. If I am not mistaken, the 8085 was for a terminal that connected to a mainframe. Rilak (talk) 08:41, 27 January 2008 (UTC)

Workstation is an outdated term[edit]

My background with workstations goes back to 1984 and Sun. Back then there was a clear distinction between PCs and workstations. These days I don't believe the distinction exists anymore. Back in the 80's I think the four main requirements of a workstation were that it meet the 3M_computer requirements: a MIPS, a Mega-pixel and a Megabyte, that it would run a multitasking operating system, that it have at least a 17" bitmap display, and that it was connected to a high speed network. Now it happens, at that time most of the machines that met this spec ran a flavor of UNIX, used a window systems, X became the standard, and used TCP/IP and Ethernet for their network connection. The 3M computer dividing line held up until the late 80's and early 90's. While in the late 80's/early 90's the hardware specs of a workstation had increased by more than an order of magnitude, the typical mid-range PC was just starting to meet the 3M spec.

But in the 90's as hardware performance increased, Ethernet and TCP/IP became the standard of for all computers and Mega-pixel large screen displays became affordable the 3M computer differences no longer were that great. A typical high end PC had similar hardware specifications as a typical workstation. And the price difference was typically an a factor of 4 to 10. This is why most hardware vendors either got out of or dramatically scaled back in the workstation market. Yes, you could still buy them but they were very high end machines used for very specific tasks. Different types of CAD mainly. Graphics intensive applications could be usually be done on a high end PC.

The last hurtle to overcome was the multitasking operating system. This happened in the late 90's. Linux and UNIX running on Intel hardware became solid and achieved a production level of quality. Also with Microsoft's introduction of Windows NT, the Microsoft world finally had a true multitasking operating system. So the high-end software vendors started porting their software to the Intel architecture, either UNIX/Linux or Windows NT. This was the death knell for the workstation as a distinct class of machine. For me personally the switch happened in the 97-98 time frame when I switched my Sun workstation for a Linux PC. At this time I changed my thinking about workstations to thinking of them as plain desk top computers. I think this change had been happening for a while. So to me at least the term "workstation" seems like an archaic term like the term "mini-computer". Yes there are still a few mini-computers made, the IBM AS/400 (System 1 now) comes to mind. But if some one is describing a need for new computer as needing a mini-computer, I would think that they had a need to run legacy applications. If you were thinking of running current multi-user applications you would host it on a server, not a mini-computer. Likewise there are still people buying workstations, but I suspect that it is mainly to run legacy applications on legacy CPU architectures.

Workstations were great while they lasted, but I am glad that a typical desk top PC has a very similar user experience as a workstation used to.

Robert.harker (talk) 00:45, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

Umm no. Current technical applications such as CATIA and many 3D graphics applications (Maya and Max) still run on workstations. Granted, the architectures are not as distinctive as they once were, but workstations are still going strong. Such an example would be the Boxx Apexx 8, with eight quad-core Opterons and 128 GB of memory. Workstations are no where near obsolete. Rilak (talk) 07:02, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Merge to desktop computer[edit]

I strongly oppose this suggestion. One of the definitions of "desktop" is any computer whose size and weight permits it to be placed on a desk, as opposed to a "deskside" computer which is too large and heavy. A workstation, however, can be of any size. Old IBM POWERstations, based on the POWER1 and POWER2 processors were huge (for a workstation) deskside machines, if I recall correctly. Further more, a workstation is not a term used to describe size - it is a term used to describe, historically, a computer intended to be used by a single person that is based on a RISC architecture, and currently a computer: 1) specialized for a certain technical or scientific task or 2) significantly more powerful than a commodity computer of its era. Merging it with desktop, which has no connection to workstations other than some workstations being a desktops, seems to me, rather pointless and to be honest - silly. Rilak (talk) 10:24, 21 June 2008 (UTC)

  • Strong oppose -- Per Rilak (although the "RISC architecture" part is not accurate, given that many workstations were/are based on CISC processors such as the 68K and x86 processor families). "Desktop" is a form factor; "workstation" encompasses a large number of design points, as discussed in this article.--NapoliRoma (talk) 16:05, 21 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Also strong oppose - a "workstation" implies something more capable than the typical desktop MS Office platform. --Wtshymanski (talk) 16:19, 21 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose - what about mobile workstations (notebooks)? The term "workstations" changed meaning over the time. In my company we are using it when refering to any computer used for work. --N Jordan (talk) 18:01, 27 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose In the mid to late 80's and early 90's there was a real difference between workstations and desktop compuers interms of computational power, memory size, disk size, screen size and video resolution. Granted these days the difference between a worksation and a desktop computer are no longer clear. Besides many workstations were desk side computers not desk top computers. Robert.harker (talk) 20:28, 3 July 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose I don't think its quite right to merge a Workstation and Desktop Computer sections based on a mere physical similarity. Today, they are called a "traditional workstation" when referring to RISC-based workstations for technical computing. Google it and see. However there are enough historical and design differences to justify keeping the evolution of Unix/RISC workstations separate from that of PC/X86 developments. From a functional standpoint they now have considerable overlap, but there are enough differences between them that they should not be merged and cause confusion. --SanjaySingh (talk) 21:16, 14 July 2008 (UTC)

Need for s specific OS[edit]

the phrase Workstations perform work of such value to their owners that they are free of the requirement to run mass-market commodity operating systems. has two biases. First, it implies that difference between high end workstation system and a commodity system rely in the operating system only, which is clearly not the case, since high end workstation can run what is in this article concidered as commodity OS.

The second bias is that this sentence claim that the major part of the cost premium is the operating system which clearly is not the case, as all worstation system present on the market after january 2009 will run either free operating systems or windows/MacOS which are not expensive in regards to the total price of the workstation.

Changing free of the requirement to run mass-market commodity operating systems to free of the requirement to run mass-market commodity systems. would remove the two bias while still explaining that given the added value of such a system for the buyer, price is not criteria in system selection.

Of course some user will need non commodity operating system, for software compatibility issues, architecture homogeneity, TCOO, .... that does not make it a general truth. --Dwarfpower (talk) 15:33, 23 September 2008 (UTC)

I think you are misreading the statement in question. Rilak (talk) 16:01, 23 September 2008 (UTC)
could you elaborate and explain in what extend I did misinterpret. the sentence say running a mass market commodity operating system is a requirement that is omposed on users that do not have the same added value for their computers workstations users have, and that workstation user a freed from that requirement. I explained why such statements are not neutral and try to push a biased opinion, and I explained how things could be reformuated as not to promoted such biases. You did rever my modification, so please could you explain in what extend current formulation is better thab the one I tried to promote, and how current formulation is accurate and un biased. --Dwarfpower (talk) 18:36, 23 September 2008 (UTC)
In my view, the statement does not imply what you claim. It is merely claims that workstations perform tasks that are so important ("of such value") that they do not have to run mass-market operating systems. It does not claim that a "high end workstation system and a commodity system rely in the operating system only", it does not even make this comparison, and it does not claim that "the major part of the cost premium is the operating system". Your proposal to change the statement to "free of the requirement to run mass-market commodity systems." does not make sense. How does removing "operating" make the statement less biased? The statement, if your proposals were carried out, would then claim that workstations are "free of the requirement to run mass-market commodity systems". What "systems"? "Systems" is a completely ambiguous word now and from the context of its use, no relation to anything can be deduced, resulting in a rather confusing sentence. Rilak (talk) 08:46, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
System has IMHO the advantage of covering both the hardware specification and the operating system. As the workstation market have for the last 20 years been defined by hardware/operating combination with no possibility to choose both independantly. In my experience operating system has not been a discriminating factor in defining the choice of a workstation vs. a commodity desktop system. The only occurence would be when given software is only availably on one operating system; in such cases the choice of that particular operating system by the software editor was originally motivated by hardware capabilities (I am only focusing on the workstation market here) --Dwarfpower (talk) 11:53, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
But the statement does not claim, "defining the choice of a workstation vs. a commodity desktop system." It claims that workstations are free of the requirement to run mass-market operating systems because the work they perform is of such value, mass market operating systems are irrelevant, in contrast to a PC, which must run a mass-market and therefore user-friendly operating system. I am not sure what you are trying to say here, because so far, all of your claims are irrelevant to the statement. Rilak (talk) 12:08, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
Difference between a workstation class and a not workstation class computer is related to capability and hardware and not to operating system. All operating system running on historic unix workstation have also run on non workstation class computers. How can the operating system be mentionned as either a positive or a negative requirement for a workstation then ? Solaris have run on workstation and not workstation, same for IRIX, AIX, HP-UX and windows ( perhaps to the exception of digital UNIX, i may be mistaken there ). As a result adding the operating system into the choice equation is off topic. --Dwarfpower (talk) 12:31, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

I don't get it... The statement does not claim that the difference between a workstation class is in operating systems. It merely says that workstations do not have stringent requirements of supporting a mass market operating system. I don't know why you are bringing up all these irrelevant arguments. The statement might be a bit out of place, but even in an improper context, I still do not see how it could be claiming any of things you have said it claims. If you think I'm wrong (and I might be), then provide a word for word analysis of how it is claiming what you are saying it is claiming. Rilak (talk) 13:45, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

Do we agree that workstations audience are involved in high added value activities(1) as a result the basic economic equation their are subject to ( maximize ROI )is shifted toward higher end systems(2). Commodity systems offer low pricesand as a result are often concidered as a solution to improve ROI(3). Workstation audience, not having the same pressure on price have more leeway on their system choice to meet their technical requirements(4).
I think that is the basic economics of the workstation, and is what was basiccally implied by the sentence in question. Nowhere does the operating system appear in this equation, except in the technical requirements.
Why focus on the operating system when mentionning price if operating system does not come in the price equation then ? --Dwarfpower (talk) 14:10, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
The statement in question: "Workstations perform work of such value to their owners that they are free of the requirement to run mass-market commodity operating systems."
"Workstations perform work of such value to their owners..." - in other words, workstations perform work that is so important to their owners...
"...that they are free of the requirement to run mass-market commodity operating systems." - ...that they don't have the requirement of supporting mass-market commodity operating systems.
Tell me where exactly economical factors and pricing of operating systems is mentioned. Rilak (talk) 14:29, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
How would you consider the sentence Workstations perform work of such value to their owners that they are free of the requirement to run pink cased computers. neither statement would be false, but the assertion would be, because A does not imply B. Same thing with current version --Dwarfpower (talk) 14:46, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
Amusingly, the SGI Fuel comes close to pink. Back on topic: How does A imply B? The statement: " of the requirement to run mass-market commodity operating systems" merely claims that workstations do not have a requirement to run mass-market operating systems, it does not claim that workstations have to run non-mass-market operating systems. Rilak (talk) 14:55, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
it says that because they do serious stuff (A) they do not have to run commodity operating system ( A => !B ) which means that ( B => !A) you cannot do serous business with commodity OS. these two statement are equivallent, not my fault it's logic. it's as I already said, at best off topic, worst case it is wrong and un-NPOV. --Dwarfpower (talk) 15:05, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

"It's as I already said" Really? First you claim that the statement is wrong because you thought the statement claimed that a workstation is something that runs a non-commodity operating system, and now, after some more twists and turns as to what the statement claims, you now claim that the statement implies "you can't do serious business on a commodity operating system..." Rilak (talk) 15:50, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

No, no, no. my last point demonstrated that the sentence claims that the use of a commodity operating system is a requirement ( implied of systems commonly purchased )imposed by cost consideration, and that such a requirement does not exist anymore on workstation market thanks to high added value that shift ROI equation. I do not says that current sentence says that. I said from the start that such a statement is biased. You ask me to demonstrate, i indulge, and get more precise at your request. now please do not accuse me of wandering around and changing my mind, when all the time I tried to point you to my original point. --Dwarfpower (talk) 17:24, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
I wasn't trying to accuse you of anything. I just don't see why it is necessary to branch into other topics that did not have particularly strong connection to the statement when what the statement claims is simple and straight forward (in my view). If the statement is such a concern, then perhaps moving the sentence into a more suitable location in the article and revising it is a desirable outcome. Rilak (talk) 12:42, 25 September 2008 (UTC)
will see in the future. I don't want to waste more time on the topic. there is much much more work on the article, and when that will be done, the more probable is that the sentence will be reformulated to fit into the overall article.... --Dwarfpower (talk) 12:46, 25 September 2008 (UTC)

Blade workstation and sun visualization System[edit]

I mentionned the emergence of blade workstations which are beeing pushed forward by IBM and HP as an option similar to current and past workstations. IBM solution is really poor in terms of capacity as of now.

Sun visualization system is akin to these solutions, thought it is based on traditional servers, and more in line with traditional client/server solutions. Anyone want to comment on the Out of scope nature of it. I cannot make up my mind... --Dwarfpower (talk) 07:42, 26 September 2008 (UTC)


I think I have seen pictures of SpaceBalls but their use was rare. They seemed like interesting devices, but I suspect that no OS provided support and extremely few applications provided 3-D support. Unless you can find a reliable reference to their somewhat common use then they are niche product like 3-D glasses or Sun's "Knobs and Dials" and should not be included with graphic tablets which were somewhat common.

Robert.Harker (talk) 04:50, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

I do not see what the issue is. I just restored the article to a previous revision after an anonymous editor removed SpaceBall with no explanation. Rilak (talk) 05:41, 6 March 2009 (UTC)
Per the requested a reliable reference, from CAD User Mechanical Magazine, Volume 16, Number 08, August and September 2003:
Chadwick, David. "Space Traveller".
On the extent of SpaceBall usage: "The Space Ball has been around for some time, with over 250,000 installed with users already."
On the extent of SpaceBall application support: "To date, over 100 leading software applications, most of them in the design world, naturally, have had plug-ins made to accept the devices, including Autodesk Inventor, SolidWorks, 3D Studio Max, Pro/Engineer, ANSYS, oldflow, EdgeCAM and others.
Office productivity applications that are supported include Microsoft Project, Office (Word and Excel), Outlook Express and Internet Explorer. 3D Connexions can supply customers with the appropriate plug-ins on request, or customers can download them from their website."
On the extent of SpaceBall support in computing: "The goods are the range of high performance motion controllers developed by 3D Connexions - SpaceMouse, SpaceBall 5000 - and now the Space Traveller, designed for the laptop PC or Workstation owner who wants to move on the move."
Link: [2]
Rilak (talk) 05:55, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

I looked at your review. It reads like a press release. I went to the companies web site and found that they no longer sell the space ball product. I wend to their old press releases and found one dated February 26, 2003 which put the units at 100,000+ not 250,000.

I also do not think it is appropriate to list a brandname in a list of generic device names. I would not object to the more accurate description of "3-D controller", "3-D pointer" or even "3-D mouse". Any of these terms would impart more information about what the device is.

Robert.Harker (talk) 19:08, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

Do you have evidence to support the claim that the reference in question is a press release? If not, then what is wrong with using it as evidence to support the fact that SpaceBalls or 3D mice are common peripherals for performing serious work? I do not understand your disapproval of an independant source in favor of a biased press release. Nevertheless, your assertion that a generic term should be used is good idea. Rilak (talk) 03:50, 7 March 2009 (UTC)

Article rewrite?[edit]

I think this article needs some major work to improve the presentation of all classes of computers that are or have been termed a "workstation". The problem is that workstations have been referred to many classes of computers. In the past, they were not based on, or are personal computers, if the definition of personal computers is a single-user microcomputer for use by "average users". This is my primary concern. Workstations are not average user-orientated machines, some workstation vendors in the past sold workstations only to businesses and other large organizations, not individuals. Stating that workstations run technical and scientific applications doesn't help. I run technical applications on my PC, and that same application has a port to HP-UX on PA-RISC and Solaris on SPARC. At present, the article uses the mid-1990s definition, a single-user microcomputer. This is not the case today as they are nothing more than PCs. So, that said, should the article be rewritten to address the present definition of a workstation, with the historical definitions regulated to subsections or should the article be split into multiple articles for each? Rilak (talk) 10:27, 30 May 2009 (UTC)

Xenon processors are CISC, aren't they?[edit]

I think that this passage is misleading - would an expert please check it

For example, some low-end workstations use CISC based processors like the Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon 64 as their CPUs. Higher-end workstations still use more sophisticated CPUs such as the Intel Xeon, AMD Opteron, IBM POWER, or Sun's UltraSPARC, and run a variant of Unix, delivering a truly reliable workhorse for computing-intensive tasks.

Alternative UNIX based platforms[edit]

The article said that: Alternative UNIX based platforms are provided by Apple Inc., Sun Microsystems, and SGI. But AFAIK SGI nowadays only have Windows and Linux, so I think SGI should be deleted from this phrase. AFAIK only proprietary UNIXes supplied by vendors in their workstations are MacOSX in Apple MacPro and Solaris in Sun Ultra 27 (both on them on Intel Xeon, x86-64 architecture) --ManoloKosh (talk) 20:49, 29 December 2009 (UTC)

Mac workstation[edit]

    • Is Apple a workstation manufacturer at all? No real engineering/scientific apps for this platform, and Mac Pro itself is rather a toy (computer for graphics/audio/video production) not a workstation (computer for real scientific/engineering work)... maybe remove MacPro picture from article? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:21, 17 January 2010 (UTC)