SGI O2 Laptop

4 years old and still ahead

Bi-planes, parachutes, and explosions over Europe
Certain Impact from Paradigm Simulation

X Y & Z Axis

 ... A dark afternoon somewhere in WW-1 Europe. You're flying a vintage bi-plane over mountains and villages, trying hard to see through the fog as you swoop and engage other aircraft.

Full hardware texturing, 24 bit double-buffered graphics, 1024 x 1280 pixels updating in real-time.

A powerdive into the fog and then a last-minute, split-second pullout is enough to induce vertigo.

- And it's running on a laptop, with better performance than a dedicated video game.


During development of the O2, a midnight side-project was born...
Still today, the O2 laptop remains ahead  


Disaster Dramas

The first laptop to run the premier motion picture effects tools from Alias|Wavefront. These are the tools used in the most demanding film and video productions.

  • Composer: Used for overlays of multiple elements in creating final composite scenes.

Benificial Androids

  • Power Animator: Leading edge animation tools for creating highly complex 3-D moving models.

Out with the Old

... the original manual typewriter had keys in staggered columns to fit mechanical pushrods running between them. Now you can't even find those old contraptions in a museum. So why are we still forcing our fingers into contorted shapes a hundred years later?

Even "ergonomic" keyboards don't address these problems. Simply adding cute bends in the surface plastic doesn't solve much. They're still stuck in the past with button patterns that don't line up with human hands. The character mapping still requires a flurry of hand-jabbing over a scattered layout.

A hundred years ago...

In with the New

The keyboard has been re-designed. Period.

There are three overlayed maps, for letters, symbols, and numbers. The left thumb presses two modifier keys.

Old keyboards This keyboard
Home key frequency
in prose text

21 %

63 %
Symbols within
1 key of home

31 %

100 %
Math keys within
1 key of home

20 %

100 %
Control keys within
1 key of home

0 %

100 %

The display is an active-matrix LCD panel with 1024 x 1280 pixels. Many trips to Kumamoto Japan were logged while engineering this display for high color saturation at the expense of illumination transmisivity. The backlight uses four flourescent light tubes instead of one or two. This is not a typical display.

We built the laptop over a six month period using parts from of the O2, which was built at the same time. The O2 boardset needed some serious shoe-horning to make everything fit. The plastics were all hand cut and assembled by Patchara. Kindle got the DC converter board running. Many, many man-months were spent from design through assembly, but running the flight simulator next to someone else's WinDoze solitare game on the commuter rail makes it all worthwhile.


  • Display: 1280 x 1024 pixels Active Matrix TFT
  • CPU: MIPS R5000 64 bit RISC, 180 MHz
  • MultiMedia Processor: SGI VICE 64 bit RISC, 133 MHz
  • Memory: 256 Mbytes SDRAM, 133 MHz
  • Disk: SCA SCSI, 4 Gbytes
  • OS: SGI IRIX 6.3 + X Motif


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