Indy / Challenge S



SGI Indy front.

The Indy (codename "Guinness") was the low-end successor to the Indigo product line introduced shortly after the more versatile Indigo 2 line was available.

The Indy is the only SGI workstation that follows the "pizza box" chassis design that was so popular with the Sun workstations of this era (Sparcstation 4, 5, 10, 20, etc.). Given the small footprint the Indy had reasonable computing power and a surprising amount of nice features (audio, video input, ISDN) especially considering the time it was introduced. The Indy was always accompanied by a small digital video camera intended for video conferencing, similar to the webcams we have become used to.

Regarding technology of the base system it is more like a straight development from the Indigo line rather than a radical new invention. The newest features compared to the Indigo are the builtin ISDN port and a Video Input that together with a camera (IndyCam) could also be used for video conferencing solutions.

SGI Challenge S front.

The server version of the Indy is the Challenge S which lacks some of the workstation features of the Indy but comes with additional SCSI and network ports. The differences between the Indy and the Challenge S will be noted where it is due. Unless otherwise stated the Challenge S shares the same characteristics as the Indy workstation.


1993, July
Indy with 100 MHz R4000PC and R4000SC processors and 24bit graphics announced to ship in 3rd quarter.
Indy R4000PC/100 with Newport graphics, 16MB, no HD, 15", accessories and IRIX: $4,995
1994, January
R4400 with 150 MHz available for Indy series in March.
Indy R4400/150 with Newport graphics, 32MB, 535MB HD, 16", accessories and IRIX 5.1: $15,495
1994, July
XZ graphics option for Indy systems announced
R4600SC/133 processor replaces R4000SC in midrange Indy systems
Indy Presenter flatpanel display introduced
Challenge S with R4400 and R4600 processor introduced
1994, 1st half
R4600PC processor replaces R4000PC in low-end workstations
1995, February
R4600/133 and R4400/175 processors available
1995, August
Webforce systems announced for September
1996, January
R5000 processors for Indy systems announced
1997, June
End of Production
2008, July
End of Service



Bare IP24 mainboard.

R5000PC 150MHz CPU.

The Indy main logic board is the IP24 CPU board (reported as IP22 by hinv) which integrates all basic components of the system including memory, I/O subsystem or GIO expansions.

The CPUs are added using modules which connect to the IP24 using a special socket. The modules include aside from the CPU itself also the second level cache (if there is any). The layout and the connector of the Indy CPU modules is completely different from the modules used on Indigo and Indigo 2 so it is not possible to swap CPUs between these models.


CPU Board Processor Clockspeed Cache (d/i) Cache (2nd) Floating Point
IP24 R4000PC 100 MHz 8kb / 8kb none R4000 onboard
IP24 R4000SC 100 MHz 8kb / 8kb 1MB R4000 onboard
IP24 R4400SC 100 MHz 16kb / 16kb 1MB R4000 onboard
IP24 R4400SC 150 MHz 16kb / 16kb 1MB R4000 onboard
IP24 R4400SC 175 MHz 16kb / 16kb 1MB R4000 onboard
IP24 R4400SC 200 MHz 16kb / 16kb 1MB R4000 onboard
IP24 R4600PC 100 MHz 16kb / 16kb none R4600 onboard
IP24 R4600PC 133 MHz 16kb / 16kb none R4600 onboard
IP24 R4600SC 133 MHz 16kb / 16kb 512KB R4600 onboard
IP24 R5000PC 150 MHz 32kb / 32kb none R5000 onboard
IP24 R5000SC 150 MHz 32kb / 32kb 512KB R5000 onboard
IP24 R5000SC 180 MHz 32kb / 32kb 512KB R5000 onboard

Some of the processors modules have been released after the introduction of the first Indy systems and because of that a PROM upgrade was sometimes required when upgrading CPUs. The following table is a summary of the various "Upgrade Installation Guides" from SGI:

CPU Upgrade               Requires PROM date (see 'version' in PROM)
R4400SC/200               July 15, 1994 or later
R4600PC/133               Sept 28, 1994 or later
R5000 CPU                 February 12, 1996 or later 

Bare Challenge S mainboard.

Although the Challenge S systemboard is basically the same IP24 board that is also used in the Indy, it is quite different. It has no connectors for audio/video or input devices and lacks the hardware to support these items. Therefore it is not possible to convert a Challenge S into an Indy.



Type:                   36bit wide 72pin SIMMs (fast page mode, parity, 70 or 60ns) 
Sockets:                8 (2 * 4 sockets)

Minimum configuration:  32 MB (8 * 4 MB SIMMs)
Maximum configuration:  256 MB (8 * 32 MB SIMMs) 

Memory modules have to be added in groups of 4 according to the following schematic. It is possible to have different types of modules in the 2 banks but within one bank all 4 modules must be of the same type. The Indy is known to support 4, 16 and 32 MB memory modules.

| ##S8################ \
| ##S7################ | Bank
| ##S6################ | 1
| ##S5################ /
| ##S4################ \
| ##S3################ | Bank
| ##S2################ | 0
| ##S1################ / -> front
| Powersupply (PSU)
| <- PSU fan buttons ->



XL8 graphics board.

The graphics options plug into the main logic board (IP24) and attach to the system using the GIO32bis bus.

Newport graphics was renamed to XGE when the R5000 CPU introduced to differentiate R5000/Newport (XGE) from R4x00/Newport (XL) setups. Because of the floating point characteristics of the new R5000 Newport graphics on these machines performed in many cases better than Express setups so the aim was not to use the XL name any longer for Newport style options because that had a "inferior to XZ" ring to it.

With Newport graphics a dual head setup is possible, but it requires a specific second XL card because of the differences in GIO slot layout between the mainboard and the normal XL graphics adapter.

The XZ graphics option for Indy was introduced after the Indy release, so not all PROM versions recognize it. The following table indicates the required PROM version.

Graphics Upgrade          Requires PROM date (see 'version' in PROM)
XZ                        June 20, 1994 or later 

The Challenge S is not equipped with a graphics board.


Drives / SCSI Devices

The Indy has a single SCSI channel (narrow SCSI) that allows internal and external SCSI devices to be used. The total number of devices allowed on the SCSI chain is 7. See Chassis for details on the internal drivebays. The SCSI chipset used is a Western Digital 33C93B Fast SCSI controller.

The Challenge-S has a single onboard narrow SCSI controller that allows 7 internal and external SCSI devices to be used (Western Digital 33C93B). See Chassis for details on the internal drivebays. In addition to that all Challenge S systems come with an IOPLUS board that adds 2 differential (HVD) SCSI controllers (Western Digital 33C95A), that support up to 15 devices each. All ports on the IOPLUS board (2 differential SCSI, secondary ethernet) are only available from within IRIX. So the root drive must be installed to the onboard narrow SCSI controller that the Challenge S and Indy have in common.

As an option a 21MB floptical disk drive made by Insite was available for both the Indy and the Challenge S. This drive was also able to write standard 3.5" diskettes.

Connectors (Indy workstation)

  • Multimedia:
    • 5 stereo 1/8" phone jacks, for headphone, microphone, speakers, etc.
    • 1 composite video input
    • SVideo 4 pin Mini-DIN
    • 60 pin Indycam connector
  • Networking:
    • 15 pin AUI network connector
    • RJ45 ISDN connector
    • RJ45 10BaseT network connector
    • Both network connectors (AUI and 10BaseT) connect to the same ethernet port, so only one can be used.
  • Input/Output:
    • 2 Mini-DIN 6 pin PS/2 compatible mouse and keyboard ports
    • 2 Mini-DIN 8 pin Mac compatible serial ports
    • 50 pin SCSI-2 connector
    • DB25 female bidirectional parallel port
  • Graphics:
    • usually 13W3 connector (depends on graphics option)

Connectors (Challenge S server)

  • Networking:
    • 15 pin AUI network connector (primary interface)
    • RJ45 10BaseT network connector (secondary interface, IOPLUS)
    • RJ45 ISDN connector
  • Input/Output:
    • 2 Mini-DIN 8 pin Mac compatible serial ports
    • 50 pin SCSI-2 connector
    • 68 pin SCSI-2 connector (IOPLUS)
    • 68 pin SCSI-2 connector (IOPLUS)
    • DB25 female bidirectional parallel port


Expansion Slots

Phobos G130 Fast Ethernet

The Indy has two GIO32bis expansion slots on the CPU board that can be used for additional hardware (see options). The space for GIO-bus expansion cards on Indy systems is usually taken by the graphics board, which passes the connection through so that two GIO32 cards can be installed.

The Challenge S has two GIO32bis expansion slots on the CPU board that can be used for additional hardware (see options). Note that the IOPLUS board uses one DMA line which means that only one of the two GIO slots supports DMA and the other not. GIO slot #0 is DMA capable and should support all GIO expansion cards, GIO slot #1 is not DMA capable and thus some expansion cards won't work in this slot.

Network Options

  • ATM (Fore Systems)
  • Ethernet (E++)
  • Fast Ethernet (Phobos G100, Phobos G130, Set Engineering)
  • FDDI
  • Token Ring


Indy video.

Other Options

  • GIO-VME interface (Bit3 Model 607)
  • SCSI interface (WD93 based narrow SCSI)



SGI Indy front.

All Indy systems come in a slim blue "granite-look" chassis which is similar in size to the pizza box designs common in that workstation era (Sun Sparcstations come to mind). The Challenge S chassis is the same as the one used for Indy systems but the plastic skins have a noticeable hint of green in their color and lack the granite look the Indy has. They have all logos including the cube silkscreened on them. The cube logo is not a shiny badge as it is on Indy systems.

Both have the following dimensions:

width:     40.6 cm / 16"
height:     7.6 cm /  3"
depth:     35.6 cm / 14"

weight:    7.2 kg / 16 lbs 

SGI Indy interior with R4600 CPU and XZ graphics.

The chassis has space for two internal 3.5" SCSI devices (each up to 1" high). The upper drive can be accessed from the outside if one of the original floptical drives made by Insite is used. Other SCSI floppies or flopticals drives most likely will not fit physically into the correct position on the Indy. It is possible to install a second harddrive but because of the passive cooling of the Indy the amount of heat generated by the drive has to be considered. The only fan to provide airflow is located in the powersupply.

Aside from the usual logo and the shiny "R5000" badge on R5000 systems there are no other markings / color codes for CPU or graphics variants. It seems the position of the cube logo was different between R4K (before "Indy") and R5K (before "Silicon Graphics") models.


Rebadged Systems

Indy with Control Data labels.

Relabeld Indy /Challenge S systems were available from several companies, the most common being:

  • Control Data: Original skins with "Control Data 9000" logo on a sticker.
  • Reynolds + Reynolds: Original skins with black badges. Model ERA Advantge S.
  • Siemens Nixdorf: Original skins with different label. Model RW410.
  • Tandem: Black skins with tandem logo.

Special Configurations

Cyclone Indy: Raster Image Processor from Colorbus Corp. The system was a stock Indy but had one GIO slot occupied by the interface card for a color copier or printer.

The WebFORCE Indy was sold by Silicon Graphics with the following software package:

  • WebFORCE Authoring
  • WebSPACE Authoring
  • Netscape Browser
  • Netsite Server
  • MPEG Encoder
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Digital Media Tools
  • SoftWindows

Indy Laptop

There is no such thing as an Indy laptop from SGI. The machines in Twister are fake systems built for the movie. However there was one made by a third party for military applications or use in heavy industry (mining, oil & gas). The company website is available at and they still produce ruggedized versions of workstations, servers and supercomputers (among them special rackmount versions of O2, Octane or Origin). Most of the systems they build can hardly be called "laptop" though.

Developer Versions

There were probably various special Indy versions which were used in software development. A known version is the Indy with Ultra 64 Development Board which was used for developing games for the Nintendo N64 system. The Indy is a stock system from SGI but comes with a fullsize GIO32 option board, that contains a full N64 with it's own graphics hardware and processor (VR4300).

Scientific Atlanta

There was a special version of the Indy which was hidden in a larger black case that was used for cable / video on demand tests. According to Greg Douglas (Message ID: <>) the system "has proprietary boot PROM, won't run Irix, no hard drive, and a slightly modified (different connectors) motherboard" and seems to have a modified XL24 graphics board.

Indy Case

The Indy Case is a briefcase which has the blue Indy cover on its top side. Below "Indy" the word "Case" is silkscreened on the front of that cover.


Operating System

Choosing an operating system.

The first IRIX version to support the Indy was the system specific IRIX 5.1 for Indy release. As time went by newer IRIX releases featured support for newer hardware like upgrade processors and optional hardware (e.g. the Presenter). System specific IRIX releases were produced for the introduction of new hardware.

While most support is present in IRIX 5.3 full Indy support can be found only in the later all platform releases IRIX 6.2 and IRIX 6.5. The support for the remaining legacy systems like the Indy was dropped after 6.5.22 making IRIX 6.5.22 the last version to support any of these systems.

Choosing an appropriate IRIX release for the Indy is dependant on the CPU and the amount of memory installed:

  < 128 MB >128 MB
R4400 CPU IRIX 6.2 IRIX 6.5.22
R4600 CPU IRIX 6.2 IRIX 6.5.22
R5000 CPU IRIX 6.5.22 IRIX 6.5.22


System does not power up or shows miscellaneous faults.

Verbose problem description: The system does not power up when the power button is pressed. A failing powersupply can cause a number of different faults.

In Indy systems two different models of powersupplies were used. The older models did come with a powersupply manufactured by Nidec, the newer models come with one manufactured by Sony. The Nidec powersupply is known to be failure-prone, no such thing can be said about the Sony model.

If the powersupply is dead the system obviously won't power up. If it just starts failing the failures may not appear to be related to the powersupply. Indy systems that show odd behaviour may be getting into powersupply trouble. It is recommended to swap with a known good one to make sure.


System suddenly freezes and won't come up again.

Verbose problem description: The system hangs without warning and cannot be shutdown with the power switch and after a power cycle it shows a red LED.

In this case unplug the power cord and check if all SIMMs are properly seated. To make sure try booting with only one set of SIMMs (4 modules) installed or try even different ones.


How to use the Indycam without graphical tools.

Basically this is easy. vidtomem by default saves a single frame from the video input into a file. To save a picture from the Indycam to /tmp/cap-00000.rgb (the counter is automatically appended) the following command can be used:

vidtomem -f /tmp/cap -v 0

To convert this image imgcopy is a handy tool. To convert it into JFIF the following command is everything required:

    imgcopy cap-00000.rgb cap-00000.jpg

Recommended reading are the manpages of imgcopy, vidtomem and vino. I've put a simple example over here.

NVRAM Password

What to do if you don't know the NVRAM password.

  1. Power down system and remove power cord.
  2. Remove cover of the system.
  3. Remove the jumper between CPU module and RAM (it's right next to the power connectors).
  4. Install power cord and power up the system.
  5. Enter System Maintenance menue and issue the resetpw command.
  6. Power off the system.
  7. Put the jumper back onto it's previous position.
  8. Put the cover back on. The machine should have no NVRAM password by now.

NVRAM corrupt

How to fix a bad ethernet address (eaddr).

The Dallas watchdog timer that stores the machines ethernet address depends on the battery which is included on the chip. As most Indy systems are over 10 years old these batteries have come past the end of their expected lifespan. If the battery fails, the Indy will begin to forget PROM settings including the ethernet address.

Typically an Indy with a broken ethernet address will still boot, but IRIX will complain and not start up networking. With the exception from the ethernet address all other NVRAM settings can be fixed by using resetenv in the Command Monitor.

Inside the Command Monitor a new setting for the eaddr variable can be set manually. The machine will forget it once it is powered off. The eaddr needs to be set to the builtin Ethernet adapters MAC address. All SGI MAC addresses start with 08:00:69 and continue with the serial number of the machine. On a local network any valid MAC address will do. Replace the xx in the following example with the serial number:

setenv -f eaddr 08:00:69:xx:xx:xx

This page describes how to replace the Dallas chip and how to set the correct ethernet address. The real ethernet address of your Indy can is printed on the small barcode sticker at the back of the machine.

Open Indy

How to open an SGI Indy.

In theory it is easy to open an Indy system but sometimes the whole mechanism gets stuck a bit so it probably makes sense to give some explanations in addition to the information given in the Indy Owners Guide (see Further Information).

The following is a short description of the typical procedure: Place system on a desk before you so that the front is facing you. Looking from the top you should see a black and a blue nose at the back of the system. Place the thumb of your right hand on the black one and pull the blue one (which is actually part of the cover) up. When lifted about 1mm it should be possible to pull the cover to the front. After approximately 1/2 an inch it is possible to lift the cover up.

If the cover is stuck it doesn't hurt to use the left hand to pull at the front of the cover. At the bottom of the machine there is some space that should allow you to pull while lifting the back of the cover with the right hand. In no case it makes sense to fiddle with the lockbar that sticks out below the black nose at the back. It is glued to the cover of the Indy and does not have a function except that a lock can be added to secure the cover.



Challenge S

SGI Challenge S front.

SGI Challenge S back.

SGI Challenge interior with R4400 CPU and mezzanine SCSI and FDDI option.

Bare Challenge S mainboard.



Indy front.

Indy interior with R4600/100 CPU, 8bit graphics and E++ ethernet.

Back of standard Indy.

Indy front.

Indy interior with R4400/100 CPU, 8bit graphics and additional SCSI.

Back of standard Indy.

Indy front.

Indy back with Indy Video and Cosmo Compression option.

Indy with Indy Video and Cosmo Compression option.

Indy with XL24 graphics.

Indy with bare motherboard.

SGI Indy front.

SGI Indy back.

SGI Indy interior with R5000 CPU and XL24 graphics.

SGI Indy front.

SGI Indy back.

SGI Indy interior with R5000 CPU and XL8 graphics.

SGI Indy front.

SGI Indy back.

SGI Indy interior with R4600 CPU and XZ graphics.

SGI Indy front.

SGI Indy back.

SGI Indy interior with R4600 CPU and XZ graphics.

SGI Indy front.

SGI Indy back.

SGI Indy interior with R5000 CPU and XL8 graphics. The E++ and Indy Comp boards are installed on top of the latter.

Control Data Indy

Indy with Control Data labels.

Indy interior with R4400/200 CPU and 24 bit graphics.

Indy interior with R4400/200 CPU and 24 bit graphics.

Back of standard Indy.

Indy with Control Data labels.

Indy interior with R4400/200 CPU and 24 bit graphics and Fore ATM card.

Back of standard Indy.

Indy Tour

SGI Indy board with CPU, XL8 graphics and E++ / Indy Comp options installed.

SGI Indy board with CPU and XL8 graphics installed.

IP24 Indy board with R5000 CPU.

Mainboard and CPU

Bare IP24 mainboard.

Bare IP24 mainboard, back side.

R4600PC 133MHz CPU.

R5000PC 150MHz CPU.

MIPS R5000SC/150

R4400SC 175MHz CPU

Indy R4400SC 200 MHz.


XL8 graphics board.

XL8 graphics board.

XL24 graphics, front.

XL24 graphics, back.

Indy XL24 front.

Indy XL24 back.


E++ Ethernet option.

E++ Ethernet.

Indy Comp option.


XPI board (FDDI).

Phobos G130 Fast Ethernet

GIA-200 Fore ATM card.


Indy video.

Indy Video (back).

Cosmo Compression for Indy.

Cosmo Compression for Indy (back).


Indy Presenter.

Indy Presenter option card.

Cables for the Indy presenter.