Product Idea |

Cray-1 Supercomputer

23 comments

Last Updated . Click "Updates" above to see the latest.

The Cray-1 supercomputer is considered by many to be the world's first supercomputer - Initially released in 1976 it was the brainchild of computing pioneer Seymour Cray. Unusually for a supercomputer it was also a functional piece of office furniture, with seating around the base of the system, where you could, if you wanted, sit to eat your sandwiches!

Such was the expectation with regards to the power of the Cray-1 that, at the time, it resulted in a bidding war between the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Los Alamos National Laboratory won, receiving serial number 001 in 1976. The Cray-1 is so famous that there is one in the collection of the Science Museum in London (serial number 011). At the time it boasted operational specifications of 160 megaflops - an incredible number in 1976 - Now, of course, the average phone in your pocket easily runs in excess of over 100 gigaflops (so your phone has a lot more flops in a much smaller case!).

Cray employed a considerable number of women to manage the looming and weaving of cables used in the Cray-1. These cables could stretch to over 60 miles in each of the Cray-1 supercomputers, so the management and installation of these cables was a key component of the system.

In 1986 the respected American photo-journalist Lee Friedlander visited the Cray manufacturing facility in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Lee Friedlander was famous for his gritty monochrome images of American urban and suburban landscapes and his photos at Cray's headquarters reflected the hard work and dedication required to build these powerful supercomputers. The photographs formed the basis for Lee Friedlander's "Cray at Chippewa Falls" portfolio. 

Built at Miniland scale, this build pays homage to both the Cray-1 supercomputer and the engineering complexities of creating one, as well as a Miniland engineer (who is struggling with some of those cables!), it also includes some of the characters in the Cray-1 story. The minifigures feature Seymour Cray, considered by many to be the founder of supercomputing, the photo-journalist Lee Friedlander and one of the wire-women who were instrumental in the manufacturing and build of the system - plus a minifigure scale Cray-1 too!.

In the 1990s the Cray company went through a series of mergers and acquisitions, and the Cray name still exists today as part of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise corporation. 

Opens in a new window