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Definition: SPARC

(Scalable Performance ARChitecture) A family of RISC CPUs originally from Sun Microsystems that runs various operating systems, including Solaris, Linux and BSD versions. After development began in the mid-1980s by David Patterson of the University of California at Berkeley and Bill Joy of Sun, the first 32-bit SPARC chip was introduced in 1989 in Sun's SPARCstation 1. Prior to SPARC, Sun hardware used Motorola 68K CPUs. In 1995, a 64-bit line was introduced (see UltraSPARC). See RISC.

SPARC International
From the outset, Sun made it easy for third parties to make SPARC-compatible computers. In 1989, Sun and Fujitsu founded SPARC International to license the instruction set at little more than the cost of distributing the specification to members. It also provides certification for SPARC compliance. Since its founding, members have produced dozens of compatible SPARC chips, including servers and set-top boxes.

OpenSPARC - Open Source SPARC
In 2006, Sun made the UltraSPARC T1 architecture public. By releasing the RTL (circuit design) under the GPL license, the UltraSPARC T1 was the first state-of-the-art hardware to become open source. OpenSPARC projects undertaken include research beyond eight cores and a single threaded implementation for handhelds.

The First SPARCstation
In 1989, Sun introduced the SPARCstation 1, the first Sun computer that used the SPARC chip. The SPARC line has been very successful. (Image courtesy of Sun Microsystems, Inc.)