Hardware

How Star Trek influenced development of the Cray supercomputers

Check out this video from CNET TV. It shows the original Cray 1 and discusses how Star Trek influenced the design of the grandaddy of the supercomputers.

Check out this video from CNET TV. It shows the original Cray 1 and discusses how Star Trek influenced the design of the granddaddy of the supercomputers.

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I've already mentioned how a typical laptop today has more raw CPU power than a Cray supercomputer from 1988. The Cray in that discussion was the Cray Y-MP from 1988. It wasn't the first Cray supercomputer however. The very first Cray supercomputer was the Cray 1, which was built in 1976.

This video shows the Cray 1 and tells how Star Trek influenced the signature-curved tower design of the Cray supercomputer line. Along the way, you get a mini-Cracking Open as they look inside the Cray 1.

Bicentennial computing power

If a typical laptop CPU outpowers a Cray Y-MP from 1988, your typical iPhone has more computing power than a Cray 1. The Cray 1 ran on only an 80Mhz vector processor CPU. Processing power would top out at 136 Megaflops. (Remember that a typical laptop today can do about 15GIGAflops.) It could support a maximum memory of 8MB of RAM -- unheard of in those days.

How much would such a computer set you back? A mere $8 million. In today's money, that's a relative bargain of only $28 million. By comparison, IBM Roadrunner costs $133 million. Certainly that's more FLOPS for the bucks, but it also shows how expensive the pinnacle of computing is now compared to 32 years ago.

If you want to check out the insides of what made a Cray 1 tick, download the CRAY-1 Computer System Hardware Reference Manual. I doubt we'll get one of those in for a TechRepublic Cracking Open Photo Gallery
6 comments
mjd420nova
mjd420nova

Actually the design of the Cray into a "C" shape was done to provide a very logical evolution to keep the main and data busses as short as possible. Arranging the processor cards in such a manner allowed very short distances between cards and thus quicker data handling. This is also why the next generation of processors will use light/lasers to pass data and not a silicon trace.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

One virus in a Cray and it's shot.It's going to take an OS like any other computer does so erase and stripe the drives and load XP into it.Run virus scanners and study for multiple processors.After doing this,or even before,check out the BIOS and chipset settings,they're probably set to the lowest frequencies.You might have a problem with crashing after freq adjustment so try the BIOS reset jumper.It has to end up better than a broken computer.And who knows you just might be asked to record the OS into a CPU.I would also try browsing the Internet.It might be at the sys ex level.Try the Cray site then.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Few cultural things have had the impact of Star Trek. I found a video on CNET TV that purports to show how Star Trek influenced the design of one of the first supercomputers ever - the Cray 1. I posted the video on Classics rock: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/classic-tech/?p=190 I wonder if some of the story isn't apocryphal. For example, the C design probably had more to do with heat dissipation than it did to appear like a warp core. But I guess that's not as good of a story. :)

RipVan
RipVan

...or maybe it is his brother.