The historic Cray-1 (serial number 001), on loan from the Chippewa Falls Museum of Industry and Technology, was a popular centerpiece of the SC 30th anniversary history exhibit at SC18 in Dallas (Nov. 12-15). The 2018 SCinet team captured a full frame timelapse video of the Cray-1 unboxing at SC18.
Video courtesy of the SC Conference Series and the 2018 SCinet Committee.
The Cray-1 on display at SC18 was the original test system installed at Los Alamos Laboratory in 1976. The system was designed and manufactured by Cray Research Inc., with founder Seymour Cray being the primary architect.
In addition to being the first supercomputer to successfully implement the vector processor design, the Cray-1 is known for its unique rounded C-shape. It has affectionately been called “the world’s most expensive love seat.” The humorous phrase first appeared in a 1976 Computerworld article [PDF, see p. 21] by Richard M. Russell; it was coined by Russell’s editor at Auerbach Steve Callahan. Russell was a technical writer for Cray Research and wrote the definitive paper on the Cray-1, published by the Association for Computing Machinery in 1978.
The Computer History Museum (Mountain View, Calif.) provides some additional details of note:
Its distinctive design reflected Seymour Cray’s innovative engineering solutions and theatrical flair. The round tower minimized wire lengths, while the distinctive bench concealed power supplies. Densely packed integrated circuits and a novel cooling system reflected Cray’s attention to “packaging and plumbing.”
The Cray-1 was 10 times faster than competing machines. But speed came at a cost. It sold for up to $10M and drew 115 kW of power, enough to run about 10 homes.
Over 60 miles of wire snaked through the Cray-1, with no segment longer than 3’ to minimize signal delays.