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Homebrew Cray-1

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the when-i-was-a-child dept.

Supercomputing 140

egil writes "Chris Fenton built his own fully functional 1/10 scale Cray-1 supercomputer. True to the original, it includes the couch-seat, but is also binary compatible with the original. Instead of the power-hungry ECL technology, however, the scale model is built around a Xilinx Spartan-3E 1600 development board. All software is available if you want to build one for your own living room. The largest obstacle in the project is to find original software."

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The originals really are something else (5, Interesting)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427028)

Back when I was an intern with SGI, we took a day off* to visit the Chippewa Falls Museum**, which has a good-size collection of Control Data and Cray Supercomputer relics along with other items relevant to my interests***.

I got to poke around inside of an original Cray-1. To me, the most interesting thing about it was just how insanely packed the internal wiring was; I'd been expecting the intricate plumbing, but the sheer volume of wires running from Point A to Point B was really impressive. I mentioned this to the guy giving the tour, who turned out to be a retired manufacturing supervisor -- he told me that the hardest part of his job was finding women with both enough skill and small enough hands to handle the internal wiring jobs. The thing had been assembled *by hand*, every connection in this crazy bulk of wired clipped or soldered into place one after another.

Anyhow, after that I sat on the couch. It was not comfy.

* My boss was *pissed* about this -- she went around telling anyone that would listen that "interns are here to work, not go sightseeing". This marks the one and only time in my career that anyone in HR has ever done anything worthwhile, calling her up and telling her this was part of the program and she didn't get a vote.
** Seymour Cray moved to Chippewa Falls, his hometown, when he was still with Control Data because he felt most middle managers wouldn't want to drive that far just to bother him. Visionary man, that Seymour Cray.
*** Stuff from Leinenkugals.

Re:The originals really are something else (4, Interesting)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427186)

IIRC, they also deliberately hired both tall and short women, and assigned the appropriate subset of connections to each.

Re:The originals really are something else (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 4 years ago | (#33430910)

Seriously?

Re:The originals really are something else (1)

Life2Death (801594) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427304)

Having been a fan of Cray all of my life, I finally ended up 5 years ago in the Chippewa Valley, unbeknown to me that this was the home of that great Company, Man, and machine. Touring the before mentioned museum I got an idea to build a replica, since I always wanted to have a Cray be the focal point of my house.

Still wish I could get a real Cray....

At least I got the chance to work in a former Cray building with people who formerly worked at other Cray plants. Its an awesome experience to hear about the company and all it accomplished before falling apart.

Re:The originals really are something else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33428564)

No you don't because even if it only cost a million dollars to buy it would be nothing compared to your power bill and installation costs.

Re:The originals really are something else (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429014)

I was offered a Cray for free a few years ago, including delivery. There were only two catches. Firstly, it was about the size of my house at the time, and secondly it drank about £10,000 of liquid nitrogen per day if I wanted to turn it on (I've no idea how much power it needed - a lot, I imagine). I don't know what they did with it in the end. Hopefully they found a museum to take it.

Re:The originals really are something else (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33429240)

Firstly, it was about the size of my house at the time

What did you live in? a doghouse? -- the thing itself (not including cooling - and the mini-computer you needed to boot it) would fit in a 3m^3 space!

drank about £10,000 of liquid nitrogen per day if I wanted to turn it on

I have no idea why it would consume that much liquid nitrogen, ESPECIALLY because they were developed with liquid freon-based cooling from the outset... Unless. perhaps, someone did a case-mod on yours to OC it? :o

-AC

Re:The originals really are something else (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#33430880)

It wasn't a Cray-1. I don't remember what the model was, it was ex-military. The cooling system was part of the deal and it took up over 50% of the total volume. It's entirely possible that it was modified in some way or wasn't a standard configuration - it had been sitting in the middle of an MoD site for quite a while.

Re:The originals really are something else (2, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427372)

Anyhow, after that I sat on the couch. It was not comfy.

+1 Informative

Re:The originals really are something else (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427894)

I agree, I always wondered about that couch. :)

Re:The originals really are something else (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33428242)

Who cares about your faggot couch. What are you going to do, fuck your homosexual ass-lover on it! What I want to know is does this thing run Microsoft Windows 7. Because if it doesn't, it is worthless shit along with all of the other worthless freetard shit out there like ARM, Power, et al.

Re:The originals really are something else (1)

grub (11606) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428378)


it is worthless shit along with all of the other worthless freetard shit out there like ARM, Power, et al.

Free? You know nothing about Cray...

Re:The originals really are something else (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428650)

Good example of why I often wish that AC couldn't post on Slashdot.

Re:The originals really are something else (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429236)

Hence the reply filtering.
If one people would stop responding to AC's, we wouldn't even know they existed.

Re:The originals really are something else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33429836)

If one people would stop responding to AC's

What does "one people" mean in this context, please?

Re:The originals really are something else (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429030)

The computer's free. Installation costs $10m.

Re:The originals really are something else (2, Interesting)

StayFrosty (1521445) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427420)

I've lived within a 2 hour drive of Chippewa Falls for many years and still have not visited the museum. I should look it up next time I'm passing through. In case you are ever in the area again, the Leinenkugals brewery gives excellent tours (with samples) as well and is IMHO worth a visit.

Re:The originals really are something else (5, Interesting)

Tom Arneberg (93330) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428874)

The originals are definitely worth seeing! I am surprised how few people take an hour to see the Cray museum (now called "Chippewa Falls Museum of Industry and Technology", http://cfmit.org/ [cfmit.org] ). The museum used to be housed in the Engineering building (where I'm typing from right now). I had to get a special camera pass to take our family Christmas Card picture with a Cray 1 in 1991: http://arneberg.com/family/xmas/xmas_card.cgi?1991 [arneberg.com] (Sorry about the photo quality...those scans were made in the mid-90s; I really should re-scan with modern technology!)

BTW, the Leinie's Lodge is also well worth visiting! It's less than a half mile from the museum, and is actually the number one tourist attraction in at least a 50-mile radius.

Re:The originals really are something else (5, Informative)

drfuchs (599179) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427576)

"Why," you may ask, "was the internal wiring so insanely packed?" The length of each point-to-point wire was individually calibrated, such that all the signals to each gate arrived at the same moment, so you didn't need flip-flops to latch values in the flow of the circuits. Kind of a "just-in-time delivery" of electrons; and each layer of buffering avoided saved you delay along the pipeline. I don't think this sort of scheme was used on any other mainframe.

Re:The originals really are something else (4, Interesting)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429310)

a shorter way of saying this is "phase matched cables".

http://www.mwjournal.com/journal/article.asp?HH_ID=AR_7184&tite=Phase%20Matching%20and%20Tracking%20of%20Coaxial%20Cable%20Sets [mwjournal.com]
pay no mind to the fact that it's discussing microwave applications. it's just as relevant to high speed digital (or lower speed, further distance) digital electronics. keep in mind how far this interconnect had to travel due to part density and cooling needs.

of course for modern electronics one might use tunable LC networks on either end to accommodate variations in commodity sourced cables.

also, i take issue with ECL being described as inefficient. CMOS is inefficient when transitioning a lot. ECL merely has a constant power drain, which also happens to make it less noisy. It was also differential before LVDS was cool (or even around).

Re:The originals really are something else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33429738)

I don't think this sort of scheme was used on any other mainframe.

But it might have been used to power* the incredibly natural sound achieved only by using the Denon AK-DL1 proprietary ultra premium cable designed for the audio enthusiast employing high level tin-bearing alloy shielding not typically available in other commercial cabling also known as tinfoil. Woven jacket reduces vibrations and to adds durability to this magnificent product for which operational and technical assistance 24/7, that is tech support all day long, is available.

*Just-in-time delivery of your electrons is not supported at this time, but may become available with a future product release.

one at UCAR Boulder (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427896)

In the lobby in front of the old supercomputer center. (The new supercomputers are up the road in Laramie where electricity is cheaper and the vice-residents home state at the time.)

Re:one at UCAR Boulder (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428096)

You mean NCAR don't you?
I visited there when my Grandma still lived in Boulder back in 1986, and saw the Cray which, IIRC, was still operational at that time.

NCAR Cray 1-A (4, Interesting)

cruff (171569) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428568)

The new computing center is still under construction, so no supercomputers are located there yet. :-) Cray 1-A serial number 3 is in the hallway as an exhibit on floor 1B, and if you are near the NCAR Mesa Lab, it is open for self guided tours most days of the year.

Serial number 3 was in active use until its decommissioning in 1989 and ran COS (Cray Operating System). It was connected to the NCAR designed Hyperchannel network known initially as the NCAR Local Network (NLN) and later as the Mainframe and Server Network (MASnet). There were rows of 100 MB and 200 MB "washing machine" disk drives connected to it, and it had access to the NCAR Mass Storage System (MSS) for archival storage. Graphical output could be sent to plotters, large Xerox printers, B&W microfiche or B&W or color 35mm film. For a speed comparison, I once ran a Madelbrot generator to produce a 640x480 image on both the Cray 1-A and a Sun 60 workstation. The vectorized C code on the Cray took just under 8 seconds, the Sun several minutes to produce the image. Alas, we don't have much in the way of documentation anymore nor is there any of the original software.

Re:NCAR Cray 1-A (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 4 years ago | (#33430222)

Very interesting. Thanks for that. Sounds like you worked there.
How did the direct to film imaging work? CRT though optics to film?

Re:The originals really are something else (2, Funny)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429230)

I've got mod points, but you're on a +5 already and the time taken to type this feels more worthwhile somehow.

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I've always wondered how comfy those seats were, nearly as much as I've wondered why the hell they were there in the first place. Well now I know, and will die ever so slightly happier because of it. That's the most interesting thing I have ever read on Slashdot and I salute you for it. "It was not comfy". Thank you sir.

(And I'm being utterly sincere here.)

Re:The originals really are something else (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#33430762)

The wiring was the key to why it was so fast. All the interconnects. Something this *emulation* wont really have.

Xilinx... (4, Informative)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427046)

I built a PVP11 "supercluster" and started with Xilinx. The hardware is great, but their software toolset is horrendous.

After months of free time development, I switched over to surplus Altera Stratix II video decoder hardware, got a copy of Quartus II, and was moving within weeks. Altera would be my suggestion for any geek who wants to try something similar!

Re:Xilinx... (3, Interesting)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427084)

(Sorry, make that PDP11! [pdp11.org] It's been over a year since I replicated this ancient architecture.)

Re:Xilinx... (4, Funny)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427156)

And you've been playing WoW on it ever since.

Re:Xilinx... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33428290)

Sadly, that's where the "PVP" came from :(
 
--TSP

Apparently... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33427082)

Not even a cray supercomputer can survive the slashdot effect.

Re:Apparently... (5, Funny)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427174)

Hey! The computer predates Slashdot by two decades, for craying out loud!

Re:Apparently... (5, Funny)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427444)

I Seymour what you did there.

Re:Apparently... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33428622)

I hope you realise that jokes of this quality will get you downmodded. And when that happens, don't come craying to me.

Re:Apparently... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33430400)

Sounds like someone has a Chippewa on their shoulder.

Wow! (5, Interesting)

line-bundle (235965) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427086)

Now that's closer to true News for Nerds, Stuff that Matters. Not the Mac fish tanks.

However, I am a little disappointed that he didn't do something with the tower part of his cray. Cooling perhaps? Blinkenlights?

How does it compare in performance with the original?

Re:Wow! (4, Informative)

Neon Spiral Injector (21234) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427144)

It's instructions execute accurately clock-for-clock, but running at 33 MHz instead of 80.

Re:Wow! (2, Funny)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427204)

Why, cray tell, does it run so slowly?

Re:Wow! (2, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427470)

Why, cray tell, does it run so slowly?

I have one of those, the Spartan board, not a Cray-1. I did not remember, but checked online and the Spartan board has a 66 MHz canned oscillator. So, his design probably uses two clock cycles per instruction cycle.

Probably also limited my the memory speed of whatever he's using for memory. 33 MHz equals what 30 ns access cycle?

Re:Wow! (5, Informative)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427558)

S3E's have DCMs (Digital Clock Managers) making them very flexible [xilinx.com] in terms of what the internal clock frequencies are, even with a fixed input frequency.

Chances are (I can't get to the site) it just runs at 33MHz as its best-supported clock frequency. An S3E is a pretty cheap and slow FPGA - I remember writing a 32-bit CPU for one, and until I started optimising the logic-placement in the FPGA, it was only running at ~30MHz. I got it up to ~50MHz after tweaking and pipelining, but his design may do more than my simple CPU.

Simon

Re:Wow! (1)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 4 years ago | (#33430618)

Ahh, that makes sense. Thanks for satisfying my curiosity. :)

Re:Wow! (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 4 years ago | (#33431292)

The S3E itself can be clocked internally at 300+ MHz. However, the maximum speed achievable depends on the architecture and layout of the circuit implemented. The maximum clock is dependent on the longest logic and routing delay through the circuit. Since the design is apparently a register for register copy of the original Cray architecture, the original ECL logic still has a speed advantage over the CMOS S3E.

Re:Wow! (3, Interesting)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427600)

Why, cray tell, does it run so slowly?

You do realize the Cray-1 is from the late 1970s, right? 80MHz with this architecture was smoking fast.

Re:Wow! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33429390)

Yeah, home computers were non-existant (I remember reading an article in Popular Mechanics about the cray 1 in 1976). I also owned a 'ultra-super-fast' home computer in 1981 ....with a zilog z80 processor. But the silly will say 'oh, but teh home computaz soo much festa now' to which I would reply ... oh, and on their behalf supercomputers are supposed to stop or slow down in order that they might catch up? Remedy: grasp head in hands, shake vigorously! And its true. Supercomputers were tens of thousands of times faster than home computers then, and it still holds true today: take a modern home computer, and compare it to a modern supercomputer. Anything else is folly. More extreme would be to take a modern supercomputer, and compare it to a home computer from 30 years ago.

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33427266)

Even a Cray can't help when it comes to the powerful and elusive apostrophe!

Re:Wow! (3, Insightful)

firewood (41230) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427490)

Half the fun of explaining the Cray 1 during museum tours was comparing its cycle time to the time it took light from the nearby ceiling spotlight to hit the Cray. At 33 MHz that would require a really tall room.

The five-second hypocrite! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33427860)

Now that's closer to true News for Nerds, Stuff that Matters. Not the Mac fish tanks.

However, I am a little disappointed that he didn't do something with the tower part of his cray. Cooling perhaps? Blinkenlights?

What.

Re:The five-second hypocrite! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33430048)

http://blinkenlights.net/ [blinkenlights.net]

Re:The five-second hypocrite! (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 4 years ago | (#33431052)

Whoosh.

is he.... (1)

inerlogic (695302) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427118)

serving his website from it?

he isn't running his webserver on it, is he? (4, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427142)

because it just got slashdotted...

No software (5, Interesting)

dk90406 (797452) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427152)

He has the needed software for the FPGA, but he has (so far) been unable to find some software to run on the machine. At least that is what I got from the TFA. It seems like no-one (including various 3 letter agencies) have copies of stuff so "old".
Never the less, I have to admire the effort put into this.

Re:No software (5, Interesting)

permit594 (677033) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427382)

The original Crays were delivered with no software -- not even an OS. We had to roll our own OS. I started at Sandia Labs in 82 as a fresh PhD. I still had some work to do on my software-based dissertation, so I got to play on the "new" Cray. I had been used to waiting a *long* time for my (FORTRAN) program to compile on UCLA's IBM 360... The first time I compiled on the Cray, it finished so quickly I thought I had a syntax error in my job submission command. For the times, that machine was FAST!

Re:No software (3, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427438)

He has the needed software for the FPGA, but he has (so far) been unable to find some software to run on the machine. At least that is what I got from the TFA. It seems like no-one (including various 3 letter agencies) have copies of stuff so "old".

Maybe he'd have better luck finding old software if ageism wasn't rampant in the IT industry [slashdot.org] ;-)

Re:No software (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33428694)

Keep in mind that this was before the IEEE 754 floating point specification. Many, if not all of the trig functions were approximations, to which Cray quipped "Do you want fast or accurate?"

Pretty cool! (5, Insightful)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427168)

This is the sorta hack that should feature on the front page, instead of machining tin can case and similar tripes.

Hope he gets some software for that thing.

But (2, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427248)

What version of Windows does it run? I might have a copy here...

Doesn't everything run Windows?

Re:But (3, Informative)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427394)

well, this is a mid 70s computer, so it must have run CP/M 8D

if he really does want to run real Cray software, he'll have to implement the interrupts and context switching for Cray Operating System (COS) or the Unix Unicos

No son... (was:But) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33428654)

well, this is a mid 70s computer, so it must have run CP/M 8D

That's MP/P for you...

Re:But (4, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427398)

Doesn't everything run Windows?

Everything runs Linux, but Windows seems to run everything.

Re:But (1, Funny)

kamochan (883582) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428840)

You misspelled ruin.

Re:But (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428922)

Sad, but true. I sometimes get scared when I see what runs on a networked Windows (XP). Neonatal monitors, respiration controllers, fMRI consoles, oscilloscopes, websites...
The problem with most of these things is that they never can get updated to the latest service packs (and thus all run without Service Pack or Service Pack 1) or have any other software (like virus scanners) installed because that would void the warranty/FDA approval/application support.

Re:But (1)

Zwets (645911) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429380)

Everything runs Linux, but Windows seems to run everything.

Hi, I'm Clippy! Did you mean "...but Windows seems to ruin everything." ?

Re:But (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429846)

Doesn't everything run Windows?

Everything runs Linux, but Windows seems to run everything.

At NASA Lewis/Glenn there was a Cray XMP that was later upgraded to a YMP. To run programs on the Cray required that the program be compiled on an IBM 360. There were two IBM's there. I was involved with the installation of power cables to peripheral equipment and modifications to the 400Hz UPS.

just tell your damn story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33431276)

the beginning was quite catchy - then nothing followed. Are you asking us if you may tell your story?

Actually it runs Crysis (2, Funny)

billlava (1270394) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427774)

Turns out the system requirements aren't as stringent as once thought.

trollkoRe (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33427368)

= 1400 NetBSD that has g8own up for a moment and you all is to let dying' crowd - Join in especially Love of two is won't be shouting

Where's the VAX? (2, Interesting)

sconeu (64226) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427388)

When's he going to build the VAX front end? TFA alludes to the fact that the Cray-1 needed a dedicated mini as a front end, and sounds like he might actually get a diskpack from one (or image thereof).

Re:Where's the VAX? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33427968)

You can still buy a VAX. Obviously not the original, but the software thinks it is.

Re:Where's the VAX? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429088)

You can occasionally pick up a micro-VAX on eBay for next to nothing. They typically run at about 100MHz, which is pretty fast for a very-CISCy architecture. Unlike the original VAXen, they have a modern desktop enclosure and so don't take up a huge amount of space.

Re:Where's the VAX? (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428950)

I believe that the original Cray 1's frontend was a Data General machine, not a VAX.

Chris Fenton, Yo Dawg... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33427542)

You've been slashdotted.Yo dawg, you need a cray-1 super computer to serve as your server that discusses your cray-1 replica server.

Yeah, but... (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427678)

theoretically, ECL would trounce any CMOS tech fabricated with current accuracy. It's just that it's so horribly power-hungry, that nobody will do this. For one thing, it would need megagalactic cooling.

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

sureshot007 (1406703) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428228)

For one thing, it would need megagalactic cooling.

Super computers in space with a satellite uplink?

Re:Yeah, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33429454)

Space ain't that cool. Nowhere to convect the heat to for a start.

NCAR (5, Informative)

Fishbulb (32296) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427714)

Send an email to the folks at the CISL [ucar.edu] division of NCAR [ucar.edu] .

They know a thing or two [ucar.edu] about Crays.

Re:NCAR (3, Informative)

cruff (171569) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428598)

See my reply earlier on in this discussion. We didn't keep any of the Cray software, unfortunately.

Really cool (5, Insightful)

cygnwolf (601176) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427760)

Again one of those instances where it'd be nice to be able to mod articles. This is the kind of stuff that needs to be on slashdot.

Re:Really cool (4, Interesting)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428102)

I clicked the "+" next to the title, then selected "interesting"

Re:Really cool (1)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429920)

You must have JavaScript turned on.

Plebes, pshaw!

Can't find the software? (2, Informative)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 4 years ago | (#33427918)

From TFS:

All software is available [chrisfenton.com] if you want to build one for your own living room. The largest obstacle in the project is to find original software."

Um... why not just click on the little link provided there?

Re:Can't find the software? (5, Interesting)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428206)

It's obvious from your comment that you haven't downloaded and inspected his source code. It includes some verilog files for making the FPGA behave like a Cray-1, and some python files for debugging it and loading opcodes into the simulated cray. However, if you want to run vintage 1970s computer applications----weather simulations, cryptanalysis, computational fluid dynamics, etc., you would be hard pressed to find any.

Chris - see the Supercomputer Centers, CMU, UCSD (5, Informative)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428008)

I think there were (are?) four of Supercomputer Centers that had Cray 1 and later Cray X-MP machines. The Pittsburgh center did a lot of work with Carnegie Mellon, esp. the Robotics Institute.

I personally did one bit of work - porting a photometrically correct ray-tracer by Dr. Robert Thibadeau in the Image Understanding Laboratory from an Apollo workstation to the Cray at PSC - this would have been in 1989, I think. The one complication we had was that the Cray floating point format was different, so our first runs were all zeros. Other than that the code compiled and ran fine on the Cray. Of course, a run that took two weeks on the Apollo ran in about 40 seconds on the Cray.

A lot, maybe all of the work done on these machines was non-spooky research so perhaps you can track some of the professors at the associated universities, such as CMU, Northern Illininois, UCSD, Berkeley, etc. Also check out the weather folks - they have been among the biggest CPU cycle-burners for a long time. I worked briefly with one weather guy at a weather research facility in Wyoming but I don't recall any details - was it U Wy?
The SCs I recall are:

  • SDSC (San Diego Supercomputer Center),
  • PSC (Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center).
  • NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications)

I'm sure that if you dig around in the universities you'll find folks who have stuff piled on a back shelf somewhere (probably in a tape format you can't read). Also look up in the old annals of the ACM SIG on supercomputing - that will give a line on researchers who were working on the Cray.

Re:Chris - see the Supercomputer Centers, CMU, UCS (2, Funny)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428602)

You mean that nobody has ported GCC to it yet? It must run NetBSD right?

Shocked I tell you just shocked.

Re:Chris - see the Supercomputer Centers, CMU, UCS (1)

MichaelJ (140077) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429838)

I'm fairly certain it ran Emacs 18. I remember that it was an overnight compile for us on our Sun 3/60's, but something (readme? configure?) claimed a couple-minute compile on a Cray.

Re:Chris - see the Supercomputer Centers, CMU, UCS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33429318)

Hey Gary, I remember you. Did you know that someone wrote a software Perq emulator [classiccmp.org] ? Last I saw he had it running all the demo programs, but still had a few bugs in the graphics.

-- Steve Clark

Re:Chris - see the Supercomputer Centers, CMU, UCS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33431024)

I think there were (are?) four of Supercomputer Centers that had Cray 1 and later Cray X-MP machines. The Pittsburgh center did a lot of work with Carnegie Mellon, esp. the Robotics Institute.

I personally did one bit of work - porting a photometrically correct ray-tracer by Dr. Robert Thibadeau in the Image Understanding Laboratory from an Apollo workstation to the Cray at PSC - this would have been in 1989, I think. The one complication we had was that the Cray floating point format was different, so our first runs were all zeros. Other than that the code compiled and ran fine on the Cray. Of course, a run that took two weeks on the Apollo ran in about 40 seconds on the Cray.

A lot, maybe all of the work done on these machines was non-spooky research so perhaps you can track some of the professors at the associated universities, such as CMU, Northern Illininois, UCSD, Berkeley, etc. Also check out the weather folks - they have been among the biggest CPU cycle-burners for a long time. I worked briefly with one weather guy at a weather research facility in Wyoming but I don't recall any details - was it U Wy?
The SCs I recall are:

  • SDSC (San Diego Supercomputer Center),
  • PSC (Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center).
  • NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications)

I'm sure that if you dig around in the universities you'll find folks who have stuff piled on a back shelf somewhere (probably in a tape format you can't read). Also look up in the old annals of the ACM SIG on supercomputing - that will give a line on researchers who were working on the Cray.

I worked for Lockheed in the late 80's at their Weapons Systems Simulation Center. We had an original XMP and the new - too cool - YMP. The XMP ran COS - short for the Cray Operating System and the YMP ran UNICOS - a Berkley variant whose source was loaded from a dedicated workstation and then compiled (!!) at boot time to bring up the machine. Backed by 10Gb of DASD, we were able to shutdown the room and restart in any security classification within an hour.

CTSS? (1)

khb (266593) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428176)

If memory serves (and wikipedia can help for those who don't recall), the first systems were shipped with just an assembler. Livermore and Los Alamos pulled together the first OS for it. COS (the Cray Operating System) came a little later. The Labs stuck with their own OS for quite some time.

I haven't seen a source bundle, but since the OS shouldn't have been classified and it was paid for 100% tax dollars, someone probably could score a copy (Freedom of information request??).

ARTICLE TEXT (4, Informative)

Brietech (668850) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428198)

As part two (see previous attempt) of my ongoing series in ‘computational necromancy,’ I’ve spent the last year and a half or so constructing my own 1/10-scale, binary-compatible, cycle-accurate Cray-1. This project falls purely into the “because I can!” category - I was poking around the internet one day looking for a Cray emulator and came up dry, so I decided to do something about it. Luckily, the Cray-1 hardware reference manual turned out to be useful enough that implementing most of this was pretty straightforward. The Cray-1 is one of those iconic machines that just makes you say “Now that’s a super computer!” Sure, your iPhone is 10X faster, and it’s completely useless to own one, but admit it . . you really want one, don’t you?

The Cray-1A Architecture

Now, let’s get down to specs - What is this bad boy running? The original machine ran at a blistering 80 MHz, and could use from 256-4096 kilowords (32 megabytes!) of memory. It has 12 independent, fully-pipelined execution units, and with the help of clever programming, can peak at 3 floating-point operations per cycle. Here’s a diagram of the overall architecture:

cray_architecture

It’s a fairly RISC-y design, with 8 64-bit scalar (S) registers , 8 64-bit/64-word vector (V) registers, and 8 24-bit address (A) registers. Rather than a traditional cache, it uses a ’software-managed’ cache with an additional 64 64-bit words (T registers) and 64 24-bit words (B registers). There are instructions to transfer data between memory and registers, and then register-to-register ‘compute’ instructions.

One of the coolest aspects of this machine is that everything is fully pipelined. This machine was designed to be fast, so if you’re careful, you can actually get one (or more) instruction every cycle. This has some interesting implications - there’s no ‘divide’ instruction, for instance, because it can take a variable amount of time to finish. To perform a divide, you need to first compute the ‘reciprocal approximation’ (something we *can* do in exactly 13 cycles, it turns out) of the denominator value, and then perform a separate multiply of that result with the numerator.

The vector instructions are particularly cool. A vector Add operation might take only 5 cycles to start producing results (remember, each vector can hold 64 values, so it takes 5 + 64 cycles to finish adding). Why wait for it to finish though? We can take the result output from the adder, and “chain” it straight into another vector unit (say a multiplier). And *that* only takes another 10 cycles or so, so we can chain that result into yet another unit (say, reciprocal approximation). Now, rather than waiting for the first operation to finish, we’re computing up to 3 floating point calculations per cycle. Clever programmers could sustain about 2 floating point operations per cycle, or 160 million instructions per second.

vector_chainingVector Chaining in Action!
The Hardware

The actual design was implemented in a Xilinx Spartan-3E 1600 development board. This is basically the biggest FPGA you can buy that doesn’t cost thousands of dollars for a devkit. The Cray occupies about 75% of the logic resources, and all of the block RAM.

spartan3_1600

This gives us a spiffy Cray-1A running at about 33 MHz, with about 4 kilowords of RAM. The only features currently missing are:

-Interrupts

-Exchange Packages (this is how the Cray does ‘context-switching’ - it was intended as a batch-processing machine)

-I/O Channels (I just memory-mapped the UART I added to it).

If I ever find some software for this thing (or just get bored), I’ll probably go ahead and add the missing features. For now, though, everything else works sufficiently well to execute small test programs and such.
The Software

When I started building this, I thought “Oh, I’ll just swing by the ol’ Internet and find some groovy 70’s-era software to run on it.” It turns out I was wrong. One of the sad things about pre-internet machines (especially ones that were primarily purchased by 3-letter Government agencies) is that practically no software exists for them.

***** If Anyone has any Cray-1 software, please contact me!! If you work at one of the National Labs, please take a look!****

After searching the internet exhaustively, I contacted the Computer History Musuem and they didn’t have any either. They also informed me that apparently SGI destroyed Cray’s old software archives before spinning them off again in the late 90’s. I filed a couple of FOIA requests with scary government agencies that also came up dry. I wound up e-mailing back and forth with a bunch of former Cray employees and also came up *mostly* dry. My current best hope is a guy I was able to track down that happened to own an 80 MB ‘disk pack’ from a Cray-1 Maintenance Control Unit (the Cray-1 was so complicated, it required a dedicated mini-computer just to boot it!), although it still remains to be seen if I’ll actually get a chance to try to recover it.

Without a real software stack (compilers, operating systems, etc.), the machine isn’t terribly useful (not that it would be all that useful if I did have software for it). All of the opcodes and registers for the Cray-1 are described in Base-8 (octal), so I did at least write a little script to translate octal machine code into the hexadecimal format that Xilinx’ tools require. All of my programming so far has just been in straight octal machine-code, just assembling it in my head. I have started work on re-writing the CAL Assembler, but that may take awhile, as it employs some tricky parsing that I’m having to teach myself.
Makin’ it look pretty

What’s the point of owning a Cray-1 if it doesn’t *look* like a Cray-1?? Unfortunately, the square-shaped FPGA board isn’t conducive to actually making it the traditional “C” shape, but I think it turned out pretty cool anyway. My friend Pat was nice enough to let me use his CNC milling machine to cut out the base pieces (and help with assembly). It’s a combination of MDF, balsa wood and pine. There was also a healthy dose of blood, sweat and tears (and gorilla glue) involved.

Some random photos from the build process:

Finally, Computer Engineer Barbie has an appropriate place to sit down!

This is awesome! How can I build my own?

This is very much a work-in-progress, but if you’d like to join in the fun, feel free! All you need is a copy of the RTL (almost all Verilog-2001) and a Spartan-3 1600 or equivalent FPGA board. The code is likely riddled with bugs and questionable implementation choices at this point, so on the off-chance anyone actually downloads this, feel free to lend a hand and send me any bug fixes you might make!

One of my favorite quotes (2)

sootman (158191) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428736)

If you were plowing a field, which would you rather use? Two strong oxen or 1024 chickens?
 
Seymour Cray [google.com]

now that the slashdot effect has subsided.... (2, Funny)

inerlogic (695302) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428836)

the REAL news story here is that the guy is actually married!!

damn... my wife doesn't know what a Cray is, doesn't care what a Cray is and certainly wouldn't want to help me paint it....
in other news, i approve of the Bailey's and Stoli bottles on the table behind the mini-cray...

Re:now that the slashdot effect has subsided.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33430442)

Not gonna be married for long with the "The Wife" comment.

wow (2, Funny)

Vorpix (60341) | more than 4 years ago | (#33428930)

imagine a beowulf cluster of these! ;)

Seymour Cray and Steve Jobs (3, Informative)

braindrainbahrain (874202) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429062)

Ages ago, I heard this story. Can anyone confirm if this is true or not?

Seems Steve Jobs, upon the success of the first Macs, was getting ready for the next step and he went to Cray Computer to buy one (probably to help design the PowerPC?).
Anyway, Cray Computers were not just sitting on the shelf waiting to be sold, so it seems Jobs created an altercation and demanded to see the manager about getting one, so they called Seymour down to the lobby. Steve introduced himself and said words to the effect of “I’d like to use a Cray to design the next Apple Computer”. Seymour replied “Thats great. I used an Apple Computer to design my Cray”.

Re:Seymour Cray and Steve Jobs (0, Flamebait)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429638)

The quote by Semour Cray is correct, but I don't think he actually ever met Jobs. However that kind of rant is typical of the kind of asshole that is Steven Jobs.

Re:Seymour Cray and Steve Jobs (3, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429664)

Seems Steve Jobs, upon the success of the first Macs, was getting ready for the next step and he went to Cray Computer to buy one (probably to help design the PowerPC?).
Anyway, Cray Computers were not just sitting on the shelf waiting to be sold, so it seems Jobs created an altercation and demanded to see the manager about getting one, so they called Seymour down to the lobby. Steve introduced himself and said words to the effect of "I'd like to use a Cray to design the next Apple Computer". Seymour replied "Thats great. I used an Apple Computer to design my Cray".

Not sure about your quote, but Apple did have a Cray. That's why they're address is "1 Infinite Loop" - the joke was the Cray was so fast, it ran an infinite loop in seconds.

Then again, a quick Google came up with these links
http://www.clock.org/~fair/computers/sgi-cray.html [clock.org] (it was used for a supercomputing project, and it was Sculley)
http://www.thocp.net/biographies/cray_seymour.htm [thocp.net] claims the quote is "When told that Steve Jobs bought a CRAY to help design the next Apple, Seymour Cray said, "Funny, I am using an Apple to simulate the CRAY-3." http://www.spikynorman.dsl.pipex.com/CrayWWWStuff/Cfaqp3.html#TOC23 [pipex.com] seems to have a more detailed version of the Apple-Cray connection.

I guess the next question is - why didn't Microsoft have one?

co8ck (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33429190)

and reports anVd

CRAY-1 fast? (0)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 4 years ago | (#33429618)

Just how fast do you think the Cray-1 ran? I mean with all the attention to wiring length, gate delays and such you'd think this was a very fast machine. It "only" ran at an 80mhz clock rate. That's it! At the time when the fastest microprocessor had a 4mhz clock (Z80) that was fast, but mini computers and 360's probably had cycle clock rates in the low ten's of mhz. What made the Cray the the speed demon of the day was pipelining. It could execute several instructions per clock, something that didn't happen in the microprocessor world till much later (with the Pentium-Pro I think).

Where is the rest? (1)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 4 years ago | (#33430166)

I looked at all of the pictures, and there were some missing parts: teletype, card reader, tape drives, and a few guys in white lab coats. Oh, and the glass box surrounding everything so the lower beings can see the magic, but have no ability to actually touch the equipment. I think an aquarium would be good, build an elevated floor with removable 2x2 scale foot panels. You would have to cut two little windows in it, one for the card decks coming in, and one for the card decks wrapped with printouts coming back out.
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