(Sun Microsystems, Inc., Santa Clara, CA, www.sun.com) A major manufacturer of Unix-based workstations and servers. In 2010, Sun was acquired by Oracle.
It all began in 1981 when Bavarian-born Andreas Bechtolsheim was licensing rights to a computer he designed. Named Sun for Stanford University Network and using off-the-shelf parts, it was an affordable workstation for engineers and scientists. In that year, he met Vinod Khosla, a native of India, who convinced him to form a company and expand. Khosla, Bechtolsheim and Scott McNealy, all Stanford MBAs, founded Sun in 1982.
Its first computers, the Sun-1 and subsequent Sun-2 were instant successes in the university market. Sun began to compete against its rival Apollo Computer, an east-coast workstation company, eventually surpassing it in sales (Apollo was later purchased by HP).
Sun has been a major force in open systems. Its computers have always run under Unix, which was licensed from AT&T and then later purchased outright. Sun and AT&T had formed such a tight alliance for a while that a host of Unix vendors formed the Open Software Foundation (OSF) in 1988 to keep Sun from dominating Unix.
In 1984, Bill Joy, head of R&D, designed NFS, which was broadly licensed and became the industry standard for file sharing. Sun later packaged its Unix components into a complete environment named Solaris, which it later ported to other platforms, including the Intel x86.
Sun used the Motorola 68K CPUs in its products until it designed its own RISC-based SPARC chips, which it launched with the SPARCstation 1 in 1989. Having gone through many iterations, SPARC CPUs are also made by Fujitsu and other third parties via licensing arrangements (see SPARC).
In the mid-1990s, Sun introduced the Java programming language and ushered in a new era for application development on the Internet (see Java and Java EE). See network computer and Sun-Netscape Alliance.
From left to right: Vinod Khosla, Bill Joy, Andreas Bechtolsheim and Scott McNealy. Although Joy was not a founder, he was hired shortly thereafter and became one of Sun's major contributors. (Image courtesy of Sun Microsystems, Inc.)
Sun's workstations were an instant success primarily in the university market. This led many professionals to the company who helped it grow steadily. (Image courtesy of Sun Microsystems, Inc.)
The First SPARCstation
In 1989, Sun introduced the SPARCstation 1, the first Sun computer that used the SPARC chip. (Image courtesy of Sun Microsystems, Inc.)
Sun developed the Java programming language, and its network computer was aptly named. The JavaStation conformed to the NC Reference Profile and was available in several models. (Image courtesy of Sun Microsystems, Inc.)