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April 10, 2012 AT 1:07 pm

The history of supercomputers

Cdc-6600-Supercomputer

The history of supercomputers a slideshow @ ExtremeTech.

Have you ever wondered why a supercomputer is called a supercomputer? Is it the number of processors or the amount of RAM? Must a supercomputer occupy a certain amount of space, or consume a specific amount of power?
The first supercomputer, the Control Data Corporation (CDC) 6600, only had a single CPU. Released in 1964, the CDC 6600 was actually fairly small — about the size of four filing cabinets. It cost $8 million — around $60 million in today’s money — and operated at up to 40MHz, squeezing out a peak performance of 3 million floating point operations per second (flops).


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3 Comments

  1. My first assembly language class was at SMU Engineering School (a summer-semester class, before I’d even started my freshman year) and they had a CDC6600. It was a SWEET machine. Sure, it was a bit elderly by the summer of 1975, but it was easy to program and that 60-bit word was handy.

    They also had a room where you could get assistance in debugging, JCL, etc., (what we now would call a… ‘Helpdesk’), which was named: “House of Ill-Compute”.

  2. adafruit_support

    We had the same machine at SUNYAB. Compute times were way-fast, but the turnaround time from submitting the card deck to getting your listing was upwards of 20 minutes. I’d often run the same calculation on my TI-59 and get the answer sooner.

  3. adafruit_support

    We had a CDC Cyber 173 (same basic architecture) at SUNYAB. Compute times were way-fast, but the turnaround from submitting the card-deck to getting your listing was often more than 20 minutes. I’d sometimes program the same algorithm into my TI-59 and let it chew on it while waiting. The TI usually won.

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