Computer Workstations

1986 IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications  
Computer workstations have become the key tool for increasing the productivity of many professionals. This is particularly evident in engineering design, software design and development, technical publishing, and advanced office applications. Integrated circuits, mechanical assemblies, computer programs, complex technical documents, and business reports and presentations are today being more efficiently and effectively designed and developed by professionals using dedicated computer
more » ... . Graphics is so integral to these workstations and applications that the term graphics workstation is redundant. recognized that workstations are rapidly becoming a sizable segment of the computer business, and that systems of workstations (ideally linked to mainframes) are becoming a major computer resource of many organizations. The idea of a computer workstation-a combination of computational power and display capability, used to perform a professional task-is not a recent notion. Over the past decade a number of tasks have been done on a small computer and attached display dedicated to a single user. In computer-aided design in the automotive industry, for example, designers have used a large computer with attached powerful display terminals on a timeshare basis. The resulting performance has often demonstrated the effects of this economic compromise: When systems become heavily loaded, users adjust their schedules to avoid the interference caused by sharing with colleagues. Rapid advances in the semiconductor industry are the primary cause for the increased emphasis on computer workstations. With microprocessors having the power of recent mainframe CPUs, the compromises of time-sharing are no longer necessary. In most interactive applications the power of the micro that can affordably be dedicated to a single user in a workstation will more than satisfy the requirements of the user's tasks. This economical and powerful computational capability is creating an ever-increasing number of workstation customers, as it continues to be less of an economic burden to provide a dedicated and powerful machine to each user. 64-32-12-R 16-0 D U c ' T Y 1-_ 2 1 ET .25 sec. 2.0 . c 4 .0 sec. 6 ' . ' . ' ' i I '.4 '.S _ ________ | SYSTEN RESPONSE TIME -IN SECONDS The other major advance provided by the semiconductor industry (which has had a significant impact on computer workstations), is the rapid decline in the price of memory. Until very recently memory was the major cost component for the display system required for many interactive design applications. In the last five years the cost of memory has dropped by an order of magnitude. A megabyte of memory, for providing a bit-map buffer for a raster display, is now priced at less than $1000 while in 1980 the price was at least 10 times that amount. As memory prices continue to decline and performance capability continues to improve function and speed, many more users will be able to afford dedicated and powerful workstations. Chip Hatfield, editor-in-chief of IEEE CG&A, and the guest editors (program cochairmen of the Workstation Conference) selected a set of papers from the conference for development into articles for inclusion in this special issue. They were all reviewed in accordance with CG&A guidelines, and the six included here were selected for their quality and relevance to readers. Workstations for professional users is the subject of the first article, by R.H. Campbell and W.J. Kubitz and their colleagues at the University of Illinois. The aim of their professional workstation-a network of single-user Unix stations for such intensive graphics applications as CADis both user productivity and ease of application devel-
doi:10.1109/mcg.1986.276787 fatcat:ghlrf634zzdgzpmypcutawrf6y