Milestone-Proposal:SPARC RISC Architecture Introduction, 1987

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Docket #:2013-06

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation?

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has the IEEE Section(s) in which the plaque(s) will be located agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

SPARC RISC Architecture, 1987

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

Sun Microsystems introduced SPARC (Scalable Processor Architecture) RISC (Reduced Instruction-Set Computing) in 1987. Building upon UC Berkeley RISC and Sun compiler and operating system developments, SPARC architecture was highly adaptable to evolving semiconductor, software, and system technology and user needs. The architecture delivered the highest performance, scalable workstations and servers, for engineering, business, Internet, and cloud computing applications.

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

Santa Clara Valley Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: Santa Clara Valley Section
Senior Officer Name: Ed Aoki

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: Santa Clara Valley Section
Senior Officer Name: Ed Aoki

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: Santa Clara Valley Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Ed Aoki

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Uday Kapoor
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Richard Ahrons
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

4040 Palm Drive, Santa Clara, CA 95054

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. Oracle Campus, 4040 Palm Drive, Santa Clara, CA 95054

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

Mounted on a wall in a publicly-accessible building on the Oracle Campus

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

Oracle's campus is secured and is protected as a historical site.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

Oracle Corporation

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

  • Is the platform for semiconductor IC design and development
  • Delivered a new level of performance that enabled a myriad of new applications
  • Cost effective technology made available to commercial uses in volume
  • Open architecture adapted by multiple companies allowing independent innovations
  • SPARC was standardized as IEEE Std. 1754
  • Backward compatiblity
  • Compiler, OS and SPARC architecture and systems evolved together to provide differentiated performance.
  • Pioneering the fabless semiconductor microprocessor manufacturing process

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

  • Initial funding constraints
  • Finding semiconductor partners to fab the CPUs
  • Concurrent development of CPU, OS, Compiler
  • Porting of software to new SPARC architecture
  • Dislodging of the incumbent 68000 architecture

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

  • Delivered performance
  • Optimizing for and delivering total system solutions (OS, Compiler, CPU, Systems)
  • Maniacal focus on SPARC systems - all wood behind one arrow

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.


Media:1987 Computer system news 10MIPs.pdf

Media:1987 March 10 San Jose Mercury News - Unisys-Sun lic.pdf

Media:1987 Oct Wall Street Journal - Xerox-SPARC lic.pdf

Media:1988 - LSI mfg.pdf

Media:1991 SPARC Anant Robert Paper.pdf

Also see 8 references in IEEE publications in the above paper.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.

<a href="SPARCpatents.pdf" class="internal" _fck_mw_filename="SPARCpatents.pdf" _fck_mw_type="media" title="SPARCpatents.pdf">SPARCpatents.pdf</a>