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Published on Nov 15, 2007
[Recorded Sept 21, 2006] The life and machines of Seymour Cray are explored at the Computer History Museum in a panel lecture celebrating the Cray-1's 30th anniversary. Panelists include: Bill Buzbee (Los Alamos, NCAR), Bo Ewald (Los Alamos, Cray) and Jack Worlton (Los Alamos). Burton Smith (Tera, Cray) will be the evening's panel moderator.
In 1976, Cray Research, Inc. delivered its first supercomputer to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb. The Cray-1, as it was known, was the fastest computer in the world and was a blend of Cray's unique engineering style and an urgency for high performance computing borne of cold war competition between the United States and the Soviet Union.
For the next 30 years, Cray defined the limits of the possible for supercomputers by building the fastest machines in the world. In spite of the enormous influence on science and engineering of his machines, Seymour Cray himself worked in small groups in rural America and shunned publicity.
How could this one man and his hand-picked team of people build the fastest computers in the world? What does the Cray-1 tell us about the engineering, social and economic factors that coalesce into creating a stable technological artifact? Why did much larger computer companies abandon the field of supercomputing to this small but powerful foe? What, exactly, were these incredible machines used for? These topics and more are discussed.