If seeing an original Cray-1 or Cray-2 supercomputer is on your bucket list, it’s time to book a trip to Seattle. Living Computers: Museum + Labs, which offers hands-on experiences with all types of computers, has added two of the most important supercomputers ever created to its permanent collection. The Cray-1 supercomputer is now on display at Living Computers. It will be joined later this year by the Cray-2 supercomputer. Living Computers intends to recommission the Cray-2 and make it available to the public.
The world’s first supercomputer, the 1965 Control Data Corporation 6000 series, was designed by the brilliant engineer Seymour Cray and represented a threefold increase in computing power. Living Computers, which has the world’s only operating CDC 6500, wished to add to their collection by obtaining Cray’s next invention, the Cray-1 supercomputer. Released in 1976 from Cray Research Inc. in Seymour’s hometown of Chippewa Falls, Wis., the Cray-1 was a fixture at elite labs and universities. Cray sold more than 80 Cray-1 systems, ranging in price from $5 million to $8 million. The Cray-1 at Living Computers (serial No. 12) was bought by the University of Minnesota with a custom maroon and gold color scheme and later transferred to the spin-off Minnesota Supercomputing Center. This computer was recently moved from Cray’s St. Paul office to Seattle – site of the company’s current headquarters – to be placed on display at Living Computers.
As a follow-up to the Cray-1, Seymour designed a liquid-cooled computer made from dense stacks of circuit boards immersed in coolant. Thus was born the Cray-2, nicknamed “Bubbles.” Setting the new standard in supercomputer performance at 1.9 gigaflops, the Cray-2 held the title of fastest computer in the world from its release in 1985 until 1990. Living Computers has acquired the world’s most complete and advanced Cray-2, a four-core 512 MW version. This was the last operational Seymour Cray-designed computer. It was taken out of service at the Minnesota Super Computing Center in 1992.
“I honestly can’t overstate how important these two supercomputers
are to computing history, and I am thrilled to be adding them to our collection,” says Lath Carlson, executive director of Living Computers. “Bringing these milestones back from the depths of storage has been an incredible journey, and we look forward to making them available to the public.” Living Computers hosted a private reception for the Cray User Group on May 9 to celebrate the new home of these Cray supercomputers.
“The Cray-1 and the Cray-2 supercomputers are an integral part of our company’s history, and played a critical role in the establishment of the supercomputing industry and the development of Cray as a company,” said Barry Bolding, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Cray. “Supercomputing is more relevant than ever in today’s world of big data and AI, and a clear understanding of our past empowers our visions for future technologies. Living Computers serves an important function for computing technology enthusiasts, and we couldn’t be happier that these two pioneering pieces of Cray history will be on display for all to see.”