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Little Character
Gift of Control Data Corporation, X437.84

Little Character
1958
Control Data Corporation, United States

Seymour Cray built this prototype to demonstrate the viability of logic and packaging concepts that were then used in the CDC 160 and 1604 computers. His experimental design demonstrated that a high-speed and reliable computer could be fabricated using small modular circuit cards.

Note the core memory stack in the lower left. By this time, most newly designed computers included a core-based main memory.

Memory Type:CoreSpeed:Unknown
Memory Size:64 bytesCost:Unknown
Memory Width:(6-bit)Click to see technical notes

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Navy Tactical Data System
Gift of Charles Cart, X184.83
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One of many NTDS equipped battleships in the US Navy
c. 1965
Credit: US Navy

Navy Tactical Data System
c. 1961
Sperry Univac Defense Systems, United States

The Navy Tactical Data System (NTDS) was an early transistorized military fire control computer. Computer pioneer Seymour Cray designed the machine in 1957 while at Remington Rand Univac, just prior to joining Control Data Corporation.

This armored computer was extremely reliable in hazardous environments and could control battleship radar and weapons systems in real-time. Multiple computers could communicate with each other to form a cooperative chain of machines. Over the next three decades, the NTDS served as the basis for an entire family of shipboard command and control computers.

Memory Type:CoreSpeed:104,000 Add/s
Memory Size:2KCost:$500,000
Memory Width:(30-bit)Click to see technical notes

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CDC 160A
Gift of James Ousley, X92.82
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Control Data 160A
1962
Credit: Control Data Corporation

CDC 160A
1962
Control Data Corporation, United States

Supercomputer pioneer Seymour Cray once claimed that he needed only one week to design this stand-alone version of his earlier CDC 160. The CDC 160A was often used for dedicated production control applications such as operating typesetting machines and mechanical lathes. It came with a high-speed paper-tape reader, paper tape punch, and a typewriter. A FORTRAN compiler was also available for those who wanted to write their own programs.

Memory Type:CoreSpeed:78,125 Add/s
Memory Size:32KCost:$110,000
Memory Width:(12-bit)Click to see technical notes

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CDC 6600 (Serial number 1)
Gift of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, X1385.97
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CDC 6600 system installation
1965
Credit: Control Data Corporation

CDC 6600 (Serial number 1)
1964
Control Data Corporation, United States

When introduced in 1964, the CDC 6600 was the fastest computer in the world. Designed by Seymour Cray, it executed about three million instructions per second and remained the fastest machine for five years, until Cray produced his next supercomputer, the 7600.

The elegant architecture of the 6600 included one 60-bit central processor with multiple functional units coupled to parallel with ten shared-logic 12-bit peripheral I/O processors. The machine was Freon cooled. Selling for $6 to $10 million each, Control Data Corporation (CDC) manufactured about 100 machines.

Memory Type:CoreSpeed:10 MFLOPS
Memory Size:64K+2MCost:$10,000,000
Memory Width:(60-bit)Click to see technical notes

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CDC 7600 (Serial number 1)
Gift of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, X1385.97
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CDC 7600 at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
c. 1971
Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

CDC 7600 (Serial number 1)
1971
Control Data Corporation, United States

The CDC 7600 was the follow on to the 6600, designed by Seymour Cray. About five times faster than the CDC 6600, scientific and government institutions primarily used both machines to execute large mathematical programs written in FORTRAN. Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used this machine to design nuclear weapons and, like most CDC customers, wrote much of their own software. A very large machine, the 7600 had over 120 miles of hand-wired interconnections. It was Freon cooled.

Memory Type:CoreSpeed:36 MFLOPS
Memory Size:512KCost:$5,000,000
Memory Width:(60-bit)Click to see technical notes

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Cray-1A (Serial number 6)
Gift of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, X1553.98
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Seymour Cray
1963
Credit: Cray Research Inc.

Cray-1A (Serial number 6)
1976
Cray Research, Inc., United States

In 1972, Seymour Cray left Control Data Corporation to create Cray Research, Inc. Four years later, he released the Cray-1A supercomputer. Not only would it be the fastest machine in the world until 1977, its unique design (which included a circular bench that housed its power supplies) made it a supercomputing icon for decades. Selling for about $6 million, the machine featured hand-wired circuitry and a Freon cooling system. The Cray-1A required a mainframe computer and an array of high-speed hard disk drives to optimize its use.

Memory Type:SemiSpeed:160 MFLOPS
Memory Size:4MCost:$5–10,000,000
Memory Width:(64-bit)Click to see technical notes

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Cray-2
Gift of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, X1630.99
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Cray-2 installation, Magnetic Fusion Energy Computer Center
c. 1986
Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Cray-2
1985
Cray Research Incorporated, United States

Although smaller than the Cray-1, the Cray-2 could perform operations 12 times faster than its predecessor. The system was cooled by immersing its circuit boards in a liquid called Fluorinert. While most machines included up to four processors, this is the only eight-processor Cray-2 ever made. Twenty-seven Cray-2 computers were sold in all.

Memory Type:SemiSpeed:488 MFLOPS/CPU
Memory Size:512MCost:$12-20,000,000
Memory Width:(64-bit)Click to see technical notes

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Y-MP
Gift of NASA Ames Research Center, L2003.5.1

Y-MP
1988
Cray Research Incorporated, United States

The Cray Y-MP was the first supercomputer to successfully reach the one gigaflop (one billion floating point operations per second) operational milestone. A more powerful version of the Cray X-MP, the Y-MP featured two to eight 0.3 gigaflop vector processors that shared a large main memory and could reach a maximum combined speed of 2.3 gigaflops. Steve Chen designed both machines for Cray.

Memory Type:SemiSpeed:Speed: 330 MFLOPS/CP
Memory Size:128Cost:$3,200,000
Memory Width:(64-bit)Click to see technical notes

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Y-MP/EL
Gift of NASA Ames Research Center, L2003.5.2

Y-MP/EL
1991
Cray Research Incorporated, United States

Cray Research, Inc., converted the Supertek S-2 supercomputer into the Cray Y-MP/EL upon purchasing Supertek. Cray improved Supertek’s design by using four CPUs that shared a central memory and only required forced-air cooling. The Y-MP/EL (which stood for “Entry Level”) incorporated standard CMOS technology and, like most Cray machines, it ran UNICOS, a UNIX-like operating system.

Memory Type:SemiSpeed:33 MFLOPS/CPU
Memory Size:128MCost:$1,000,000
Memory Width:(64-bit)Click to see technical notes

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Cray-3 "Brick"
Gift of Dr. Len Shustek, 102631029
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Designer Seymour Cray with Cray-3 supercomputer
1993

Cray-3
1993
Cray Computer Corporation, United States

Seymour Cray chose exotic gallium arsenide (GaAs), instead of silicon, for the circuitry of the Cray-3. The modules in this “brick” comprise a multi-layer sandwich of printed circuit boards that contain 69 electrical layers and four layers of GaAs circuitry. It consumed 90,000 watts of power and, like the Cray-2, was cooled by immersion in Fluorinert. Only one partially-complete Cray-3 was built. A computation that took the Cray-3 only one second would have taken ENIAC over a month.

Memory Type:SemiSpeed:15 GFLOPS
Memory Size:2GCost:$30,000,000
Memory Width:(64-bit)Click to see technical notes