First Supercomputer Cray-1
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"There's something about the speed of light; It's just hard to get around." ~ Seymour Cray
This specimen is a surface mounted Integrated Circuit (IC) originally part of the Cray-1 Supercomputer installed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. Introduced in 1975, the complete Cray-1 weighed 5.5 tons and was capable of 80 million floating-point operations per second.
The Cray-1 first appeared in the Second Edition of the Mini Museum. The artifact in that collection was a fragment of the module board on which these chips were once installed. We are pleased to offer the chips directly, but as you might expect there are only so many and it is unlikely that it will be offered again.
Please Note: The ICs are offered in a "blind box" style. We have tried to randomize the order as much as possible, but if you order more than one specimen you may receive a duplicate IC. In addition, the condition of the chips vary broadly. Some are de-soldered while others have been cut-free where de-soldering was not possible.
As shown, the specimen is enclosed in an acrylic jar and protected by a classic, glass-topped riker box case measuring 4 1/2" x 3 1/2". A small information card is also included.
About Seymour Cray and the Cray-1
Seymour Cray was a legend in the world of early digital computers. He was also a veteran of past attempts to create large supercomputers:
"If you work in a large corporation it is very hard to keep on one track for 4-5 years. So, I think that building large computers should be done with the fewest possible people. One is perfect, but it can't quite work with one. The next best thing is about 12."
Eschewing the methods of the past, Cray created a new kind of supercomputer company using just four main principles: simplicity, size, discipline, and cooling.
Earlier attempts to create a viable supercomputer involved the use of incredibly complex integrated circuits. The Cray-1 used just three different types of integrated circuits across the entire machine, vastly simplifying the architecture. For cooling, freon circulated through stainless steel tubing bonded between vertical wedges of aluminum fitted between the stacks of circuit boards.
Cray's innovations yielded a machine was so advanced that a bidding war ensued for the first machine off the line. This made the Cray-1 was the first commercially successful supercomputer and launched the legend that became Cray Research.
The iconic look of the Cray-1 is more than just 1970's aesthetics at play. Everything was thought through to provide advantages in performance.
The columnar design of the cabinet allowed Cray to minimize the amount of wiring between processing stacks, while the cushions ringing the unit covered the enormous power supplies at the base of each tower.
Below is a talk given by Seymour Cray in 1976 discussing the Cray-1 and the field of computers: