Cray Inc. builds upon a rich history that extends back to 1972, when the legendary Seymour Cray, the "father of supercomputing," founded Cray Research. R&D and manufacturing were based in his hometown of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin; business headquarters were in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The first Cray-1™ system was installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1976 for $8.8 million. It boasted a world-record speed of 160 million floating-point operations per second (160 megaflops) and an 8 megabyte (1 million word) main memory. The Cray-1's architecture reflected its designer's penchant for bridging technical hurdles with revolutionary ideas. In order to increase the speed of this system, the Cray-1 had a unique "C" shape which enabled integrated circuits to be closer together. No wire in the system was more than four feet long. To handle the intense heat generated by the computer, Cray developed an innovative refrigeration system using Freon.
In order to concentrate his efforts on design, Cray left the CEO position in 1980 and became an independent contractor. As he worked on the follow-on to the Cray-1, another group within the company developed the first multiprocessor supercomputer, the Cray X-MP™, which was introduced in 1982. The Cray-2™ system appeared in 1985, providing a tenfold increase in performance over the Cray-1.
In 1988, Cray Research introduced the Cray Y-MP®, the world's first supercomputer to sustain over 1 gigaflop on many applications. Multiple 333 MFLOPS processors powered the system to a record sustained speed of 2.3 gigaflops.
Always a visionary, Seymour Cray had been exploring the use of gallium arsenide in creating a semiconductor faster than silicon. However, the costs and complexities of this material made it difficult for the company to support both the Cray-3™ and the Cray C90™ development efforts. In 1989, Cray Research spun off the Cray-3 project into a separate company, Cray Computer Corporation, headed by Seymour Cray and based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tragically, Seymour Cray died of injuries suffered in an auto accident in September 1996 at the age of 71.
The 1990s brought a number of transforming events to Cray Research. The company continued its leadership in providing the most powerful supercomputers for production applications. The Cray C90™ featured a new central processor with industry-leading sustained performance of 1 gigaflop. Using 16 of these powerful processors and 256 million words of central memory, the system boasted unrivaled total performance. The company also produced its first "mini-supercomputer," the Cray XMS™ system, followed by the Cray Y-MP EL™ series and the subsequent Cray J90™.
In 1993, Cray Research offered its first massively parallel processing (MPP) system, the Cray T3D™ supercomputer, and quickly captured MPP market leadership from early MPP companies such as Thinking Machines and MasPar. The Cray T3D system proved to be exceptionally robust, reliable, sharable and easy-to-administer, compared with competing MPP systems.
Debuting in 1995, the successor Cray T3E™ supercomputer was the world's best-selling MPP system. And the Cray T3E-1200E™ system was the first supercomputer to sustain one teraflop (one trillion floating-point operations per second) on a real-world application. In November 1998, a joint scientific team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and the University of Bristol (UK) ran a magnetism application at a sustained speed of 1.02 teraflops.
In another technological landmark, the Cray T90™ became the world's first wireless supercomputer when it was unveiled in 1994. Also introduced that year, the Cray J90 series has since become the world's most popular supercomputer, with over 400 systems sold.
Cray Research merged with Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI) in February 1996. In August 1999, SGI created a separate Cray Research business unit to focus exclusively on the unique requirements of high-end supercomputing customers. Assets of this business unit were sold to Tera Computer Company in March 2000.
Tera Computer Company was founded in 1987 in Washington, DC, and moved to Seattle, Washington, in 1988. Tera began software development for the Multithreaded Architecture (MTA) systems that year and hardware design commenced in 1991. The Cray MTA-2™ system provides scalable shared memory, in which every processor has equal access to every memory location, greatly simplifying programming because it eliminates concerns about the layout of memory.
Tera completed its initial public offering in 1995 (TERA on the NASDAQ stock exchange), and soon after received its first order for the MTA from the San Diego Supercomputer Center. The multiprocessor system was accepted by the center in 1998, and has since been upgraded to eight processors.
Upon its acquisition of the Cray Research division of SGI in 2000, the company was renamed Cray Inc. and the ticker symbol was changed to CRAY.