In Sun’s ideal world, a user would run programs on a central server (a Sun, of course), having their session follow their smart card seamlessly from terminal to terminal along with any other shared resources they might require. While Sun produced the JavaOS-based JavaStation in 1996 — ironically based on Oracle’s Network Computer concept — it used relatively expensive hardware, being essentially a miniaturized SPARCstation 4. Instead, the new proof of concept for a cheaper, more connected world was the 1997 NetWorkTerminal “NeWT” — one wonders if that abbreviation was a coincidence — based on Sun’s MicroSPARC IIep CPU, and that prototype in turn evolved into the first Sun Ray thin client in 1999, codenamed Corona.
Setting up a number of Sun thin clients – both fixed and laptop models – running off a Sun Ultra 45 workstation, with smartcards and all, is basically my retro computing end game. I have always been deeply fascinated by “the network is the computer”, and while there’s quite a few other thin client platforms, it’s the Sun one that feels like the real, original concept. I can’t find a reasonably priced Ultra 45 anywhere – feel free to contact me if you have one on offer – but Sun thin clients are a dime a dozen on eBay.
In any event, it will come as no surprise that I love the linked article.