Previous image Index Next image
Index Previous image Next image Start slideshow (2 s)

Image 29 of 35



The original supercomputer, the Cray-1, was set up at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1976.
The Cray-1 was capable of 80 MFLOPS (or, according to another source, 138 - 250 MFLOPS).

And yes, there it is... The Cray 1. The coolest computer ever built. Uber cool like nothing else.
Or as they said in the manual back in 1977:
The CRAY-1 Computer System is a powerful general-purpose computer capable of extremely high processing rates....

Viewed from above, it looks like a giant ''C,''. Perhaps to help remind people that their Cray Research brand Cray-1 computer
was made by... Cray Computers? C for Computer and Cray ? The uber coolness is just everywhere here!

And best of all you can use the opening to ''Step into the computer''. Again, can you think of anything cooler than that?
Surely, rapturous delight, ecstasy to be ''inside'' a running Cray?
Pure Hal 9000 stuff (See my Datalog Blad article from 2003).

Inside you would really be up close to ''a machine so advanced in electronic intellect that it can only talk to other machines'',
as we remember reading back in the 80s. Cray himself was of course all about the aesthetics:
"So many computer products are rectangular boxes and don't seem to have any aesthetic appeal".
- So the uber computer should be cylindrical and feature a cozy, warm seat. Warm, as it was, after all, located right above a power converter.

Sure, functionally, the seat covered the freon cooling systems below.
But this is surely the strangest design ever? A computer you can actually sit on? Why would you do that?
A somewhat reasonable idea is that the seat was used for naps by sleepy installers and programmers. But of course (this being a male dominated industry)
another theory is that the (love) seat is where the overworked Cray controller would meet with his girlfriend
(Obviously, working with the Cray would be a 24/7 job, with no time to go home, ever. Why would you?).
For what may well have been the coolest event since the dinosaurs. Right there on the Cray.... But that is only rumours of course.

The machine was wired completely by hand. Monthly operating cost, including service contract, was approximately $100,000.
Fast forward 30 years, and you find your standard office Pentium 4 (2.8 GHz) PC doing about 2.5 GFLOPS (some 31 times faster).
And Blue Gene (Oct. 2009) doing 280 TFLOPS - 500 TFLOPS (some 350,000 times faster)
for some brain cortex simulation.

In Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories, the Cray 1s primary job was to simulate nuclear explosions.
But it also had commercial users, Continental Airlines used it to assign crews in the most economical way.
Considering such factors as flight schedules, crew pay, layover costs, motels, meals, and more.
Each year the airline spent several hundred thousand dollars in computer time just to find the best schedule.
I had no idea that a Cray 1 could do such mundane jobs....

And yes, I am afraid the picture is somewhat shaken.
Probably, the photographer was just a bit awestruck here, and unable to focus properly.....

October 2009

Pics from visit to the Computer Museum, Mountain View, CA. - Visible Storage display items.