The triumphant return of This Old Box! You begged and pleaded, and we listened. Ok, ok… nobody said anything — but your indifference speaks volumes to our hearts! Apathy is the seed of enthusiasm. Or something. This Old Box In this installment of TOB, we’re taking another gander at one of the big boys of computing. And, oh …
Cray was a genius
When I was at university in the early 80's, taking computer architecture classes, we learned that the original Cray-1 was built up from extremely simple gates - 4 and 5 input ECL NAND gates and very small ECL RAMs. Imagine that, building up vector processing arithmetic units using only simple gates! Hierarchical design and modularity conquer all, I guess.
Cray 1 Circuit Board
The Cray's were certainly iconic machines. In front of me on my desk is a framed circuit board with the following caption:
"This Cray-1 S printed circuit board is a genuine part of the second supercomputer ever built. The computer arrived at Kirtland Air Force Base in 1980 and was used by the Phillips Laboratory (...) it was used to perform calculations, simulations and computer modeling to determine the effects of nuclear weapons detonations (...) on military systems and activities."
A great little souvenir that I picked up from the gift shop of the National Atomic (bomb) Museum in Albuquerque, at that time (pre-9/11)you had to get clearance into the air force base to visit the museum. I believe it is a memory card, it carries a bank of 32 surface mounted chips with an 'F' logo and the serial number 10470, plus other supporting chips.
More Cray At NCAR
Ah, yes, the Cray-1 at NCAR. In the spring of 1979, the local IEEE chapter had a "visit the Cray" tour at NCAR. The big thing at the time, I recall, was standing inside the "C" and mumbling something about having Scotty beaming you up. Knowing what know now about static, I'm surprised the NCAR folks even considered allowing it to happen.
About this time I had started work at HP. A little later that year (after the NCAR trip), my operation manager came to me and asked me to write up a fake P.O. for a Cray. Whipping up the P.O. and pulling numbers out of my... imagination, I delivered it. I think the bottom line was about $10 million or so. Seems the manager had just obtained a new rubber stamp and wanted to try it out. The P.O. came back stamped, "I Can't Possibly Sign This!"
Too bad. Would have loved to have run SPICE simulations on it.
Oh, and puh-leeeeeez keep up with the This Old Box articles! I've loved every one!
The Cray model roadmap 1976 - today
Cray-1, X-MP, Y-MP (first GFLOP in 1989)
then a split on the product line
Vector/Scalar - C90, T90, J90, SV1, SV1ex (the SVs were SGI's aspirations after buying Cray in 1996 for some $750M and 3 yrs later selling it off for $50M)
MPP (1000's of processors) - T3D, T3E, T3E-1200 (first sustained TFLOP), T3E-1350
then product line collapsed to one and continued on as...
High Bandwidth MPPs - Cray X1, X1e, XT3, XT4, XT5/XT5h, ...... onto PFLOP hardware maybe by 2010
@ Brian Miller Which Boeing facility?
Renton or Everett? I was contracted doing desktop and terminal hardware swap for awhile in the mid 90's at the Everett facility. I was assigned from roughly D-F of the main assembly building. Didn't work the Glass Palace much. Didn't see most of their computer design assets (other than CATIA terminals) or some of the CAD/CAM and assembly automation.
Briefly got over to Longacres while they were working on the 777 flight simuator. That was a pretty awesome setup.
Book about Mr Cray
A really good book about the history of S Cray. Amazing story
The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards Behind the Supercomputer
Re: Talking of old machines....
The company I work at have a fair few old machines, all about the same sort of spec as the machine that Andy found. They're all around 486dx33's with a couple of megs of ram. They play audio through special audio cards which are old full length ISA cards. I'd go as far as saying that they're more reliable than their Windows NT equivalents.
Sorry I forgot to beg for this article. Reminds me of the days I had to sort punch cards, play with IBM 3090/S38/S36/AS400Model-B20-40-60 and Harry (Harris computer). I still have some 8inch IML boot disks left in case I ever find another....
Harry was the best: in winter times, this was the first system we'd boot. Why? Well, after power on it would produce a nice warm place to sit on top. The harddisk (amazing 10MB storage) took about 3 minutes to speed up. You could not boot the CPU before the HD was fullly functional. I hated the 3 minutes extra cold. 1988 was nice.
The AS/400's were cool too, but lacked a convenient place to warm up. Probably this is why they are still running......
During those days, I actually dreamed of having -any- cray available. SUPERcomputer!
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