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.


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