The “Certain Impact” of RAM Failure…

About two years ago I setup a nice SGI O2 system to finally have a chance to play with IRIX and the 3D video hardware that SGI is so famous for. I’ve had fun with the box, but never had any app or demo that really pushed the hardware. Eventually I became aware of Certain Impact [via Internet Archive], a flight simulation game/demo from Paradigm, known for their work on flight simulators for the US government and also for designing the flight engine in the popular PilotWings and PilotWings 64 games for the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64, respectively. I searched on and off for a year and a half before finally finding Certain Impact, so you can understand how quickly I fired up my O2 to get it installed once the CDs arrived. That’s when I was greeted with the chilling message.

Certain Impact - Paradigm

There are some things that can be seen on a computer screen that truly send a chill down one’s spine. I have a screenshot of a screenfull of horror. Memory error. Thanks to the 256MB of ECC memory in the O2, the error was rather precise in nature. I cracked open the unit and rotated/reseated the DIMMs—twice actually, and sadly the problem remained. It seems that, for the first time in the 23 years I have been using computers, I have experienced a memory failure. For the time being, I should be able to pull two of the eight DIMMs and run with 192MB RAM, hopefully seeing no further memory errors.

A sad moment, indeed. Hopefully this will bring the system back up to speed, allowing me to waste precious hours in front of Certain Impact.

UPDATE: The system has been running fine for days now with the bad DIMM (and its neighbor) pulled, dropping the total memory to 192MB. What’s more, Certain Impact plays just great! I will have to post screenshots at some point.

Updated on 05/22/2020 to fix RAM error screenshot link, removed YouTube video embed (replaced with my own video), and add Internet Archive link for Certain Impact page.

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4 Responses to The “Certain Impact” of RAM Failure…

  1. Tom DC/VA says:

    I’ve seen correctable ECC errors on an E4000 (and perhaps a SPARC20) before (they get logged to /var/adm/messages). The system ran fine for a few months before I finally got around to pulling the module.

  2. Thad Beier says:

    I’ve got a passel of O2’s on a shelf if you need anything.

    Write me at

  3. Robert Chase says:

    The o2 is a UMA design Unified Memory Architecture and essentially the memory serves as the bus of the system. The x86 based SGI 320 is designed the same way and even has a PROM like a UNIX machine. Being designed this way gives the o2 its speed but also makes it a bit on the sensitive side with memory issues.

    The good thing is IRIX runs well with not a lot of system ram. When I worked at SGI I was issued two systems an o2 for the office and an Indy for my home office. The Indy had 128mb of ram and still ran quite well. Kinda amazing really when you consider its the same OS that runs on the Origin class hardware that a low end configurations would be double and triple digit GB’s of ram. :)

  4. Pingback: My SGI O2: Down Off the Shelf and Back On the Desk | Byte Cellar

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