The Javastation was a mostly-failed attempt by Sun Microsystems to design a thin client that would run Java applications exclusively. In concept, it was essentially a scaled-down SPARC workstation, running JavaOS. JavaOS was a minimal kernel which ran a Java virtual machine, and all services were provided by Java apps running on top of this.
The project failed, with only a few thousand Javastations of all models sold. Its failure as due in large part to its fantastically poor performance. The JavaOS VM was one of the slowest on the market, even adjusting for the speed of the underlying hardware. It was often outperformed by Sun's own Java VM for Solaris, running on similar hardware like the SPARCStation 4. The bundled HotJava browser, which for a short time was bundled with Solaris also, had severe compatibility problems and often crashed when it encountered a page it couldn't handle. Also, the software intended to provide interoperability with the X Window System was so incredibly slow that it made even console applications unusable.
Strangely, Sun did port Solaris to the Javastation, but never released the modified OS despite its superior performance. The availability of SPARC Linux for the Javastations caused a brief resurgence in their popularity, but by then, Sun had discontinued the product line. Linux on a Javastation does not generally run Java applications. Rather, it functions as an X terminal, running all applications on the server much as the Javastation's successor, the Sun Ray does.
There were two models of JavaStation produced, along with four prototype models.
- Javastation 1
- Code-named Mr. Coffee, the Javastation 1 was essentially a cut-down SPARCStation 4 with PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse, HD15 video output and a 9-pin serial port, plus the audio subsystem of the SPARCstation 20. It had a 110MHz MicroSPARC processor and up to 64MB of RAM, plus 32MB of Flash. For graphics, it was equipped with the same 8-bit TCX framebuffer as the SS4. Strangely, the 24-bit TCX used in the SPARCStation 5 was not available as an option on the Javastation-1, even though 24-bit color was generally regarded as an essential feature for a thin client. It used the same half-lunchbox form factor as Sun-branded external hard disks, tape drives and CD-ROM drives.
- Javastation 10
- Code-named Krups. The Javastation 10 came in a striking, curved vertical enclosure. It had 24-bit graphics and 100Mbit fast ethernet, and also used 168-pin EDO DIMMs, like the Sun Ultra 10. This was the most widely produced model.
- This was essentially a Javastation 10 with PCI slots, a half-finished ATA interface and a higher RAM ceiling, in a pizza box case.
- A prototype of the Javastation 1. More or less a SPARCStation 4 stuffed into a half-lunchbox enclosure.
- Analogously to the SPARCengine and UltraEngine boards available, this was a Javastation-10 in an ATX motherboard form factor for embedded uses.
- A Javastation prototype using x86 hardware. Never officially sold, but lots of these somehow wound up in South Africa. It has USB, four serial ports (odd for a thin client) and PCI slots, in addition to the usual Javastation features. It uses Open Firmware rather than PC BIOS, and it appears that there was no JavaOS for this machine. Presumably it was intended to run a modified Solaris, or perhaps Linux.