The Vintage Computer

A Collection of IT Gear from the Past, Restorations and Projects around vintage computing

Hewlett-Packard 9000/712 Workstation

The HP 9000 / 712 is a nice, little entry level workstation with HPs own PA 7100LC RISC processor. It was available in different configurations with speeds from 60 to 100 MHz and supported HPs UNIX variant HP-UX from version 9.05 up to version 11.

What we are looking at here is the lowest spec machine with a 60MHz CPU, and initially 16MB of memory and no hard-disk drive, essentially being meant as a low cost X-Windows terminal.

Standard hardware components such as PS/2 memory modules, PS/2 keyboard and mouse and a standard VGA display were used to bring costs down. To that end, IO was highly integrated into one “LASI” chip that provided standard interfaces: 50pin single ended SCSI, standard DB9 / DB25 serial / parallel connectors and RJ45 ethernet.

HP-UX Install going. SCSI2SD shown in the left drivebay in its styrofoam retainer.

The case is engineered for easy assembly, consisting of two plastic halves that slide onto each other and lock by a plastic tab. The internal drives are held in place with some styrofoam retainers which allow for tool-less installation of components, reduce weight and dampen noise. The only concern there would be possible heat dissipation issues.

The mainboard itself is quite small, it maybe fills a third of the case’s footprint and is engineered towards cost efficiency – all SMD components, no riser cards or other complexities. Thankfully HP used non-leaking tantalum caps and a coin-cell battery instead of the infamous VARTAs.

HP 9000/712 mainboard at the back of the case in it’s standard configuration w. 16MB memory and the VRAM slot unpopulated (right)

Over time, some upgrades were added, bringing the memory up to 80MB, adding a VRAM module to support higher resolution graphics and a SCSI2SD solid state drive.

This allows to run HP-UX 10 quite nicely but what makes this machine really interesting is that it is one of the few HP workstations to support the NeXTSTEP operating system.

As per, this workstation model was used to develop the PA-RISC variant of NeXTSTEP and allegedly was designed for it when NeXT decided to become a software only company and thus looked for partners to build matching hardware.

The HP 9000/712 hardware is fully supported by NeXTSTEP, including its sound hardware and its “Artist” video subsystem, which is a highly integrated 2D accelerator that utilizes color compression techniques to store 24bit color information in an 8bit framebuffer.

NeXTSTEP is very enjoyable on this little RISC workstation, it is much speedier than the original NeXT hardware that was based on Motorola 68k CISC processors.

Technical Details

This HP9000/712Original Specification
CPUPA-RISC 7100LC @ 60MHzPA-RISC 7100LC @ 60 – 100MHz
RAM80 MB16MB – 128MB
Disk4GB SCSI2SDnone
Removable Drivenonenone, FDD optional
VideoArtists GFX w. additional VRAMArtist
SoundsameHarmony, 16bit CD quality PCM
Introduced1994 / 1995
Entry price~ USD 4,000USD 4,000 – USD 15,000
USD 8,462 – USD 31,735 in 2024
(inflation adjusted as per May 2024)
HP 9000 / 712 Tech Brief


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