Monday, March 22, 2010

Taking the little man to see a Cray

While Mum took the little lady to see "Joseph and his coat of many whacky colours" in Coventry, I took the small man on the rather wonderful Wrexham and Shropshire service from Cosford to London to visit the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. The Natural History Museum apart from a few large dinosaur skeletons, is not very visually impacting and does not keep the interest of a small boy that well. The Science Museum is a different matter and he enjoyed that much more. Probably need a few more years before the Natural History Museum is ripe for an other visit.

While not visually exciting for a 4 year old, one thing which did catch my eye was the Cray-1 above. Priced from $5M to $8M in 1976, running at 80mhz, peak of 250 MFLOPS. The current fastest Cray(2008) is 1.64 “petaflops,” , a petaflop being 10^15, so 10 orders of magnitude faster. A current IPhone runs at 6 MFLOPS, so 40 IPhones == a Cray 1 and a quad-core Xeon can deliver in the region of 40 GFLOPS, so 160 times that of a Cray-1. Lot of progress in 35 years!

I worked for the Cray Research part of Silicon Graphics in 1997. I still maintain that even though he died a few years before and the company had been taken over, the positive influence of Seymor Cray was still there.

I had a very interesting discussion on the return train journey with a Physics Masters student from Imperial who is working on Quantum Computing. Still don't think I could explain even the highest level overview of the topic. How many years away from building a usable system? He suggested 15 to 20.

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