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Seymour Roger Cray

28 September 1925, Chippewa Falls (Wi), USA
5 October 1996, Colorado Springs (CO), USA

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principal papers

Cray supercomputers

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Creator of the first super computer Cray I



Seymour Cray was born in 1925 in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.

Cray earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in 1950 from the University of Minnesota. In 1951 he earned a master of science degree in applied mathematics from the same institution.

From 1950 to 1957, Mr. Cray held several positions with Engineering Research Associates (ERA) of St. Paul, Minnesota. At ERA, he worked on the development of the ERA 1101 scientific computer for the U.S. government. Later, he had design responsibility for a major portion of the ERA 1103, the first commercially successful scientific computer. While with ERA, he worked with the gamut of computer technologies ranging from vacuum tubes and magnetic amplifiers to transistors. Cray stayed six years with ERA where he designed several other systems. In 1957 he left ERA with other engineers, a. o. Norris, to establish Control Data Corporation.

By 1960 Seymour Cray won the reputation of a genius in designing high performance computers and completed the design of the first fully transistorized computers: Control Data 1604. Straight after that he started the design of the first system that was worthy to be called a supercomputer: the CDC 6600 with a freon-cooling system, then hold technically impossible. Also for this system he developed an instruction set that would later be called RISC (a term coined by Dave Patterson)

Seymour Cray who started the development of supercomputers shaped the high performance computing industry for years to come, that was around 1970.

The last system that Seymour worked on at CDC was the 8600 a first in massive parallelism and multi processor architecture. In the same time this type of machine was too far ahead of time and the project got scrapped by management due to cut backs in budgets and payroll difficulties.

In 1972, Seymour Cray founded Cray Research to design and build the world's highest performance general-purpose supercomputers. His Cray-1 computer established a new standard in supercomputing upon its introduction in 1976.

In the years following the company's founding, Mr. Cray relinquished the company's management reins to devote more time to computer development. From 1972 to 1977 he served as director, chief executive officer, and president of the company. In October 1977, he left the presidency, but remained chief executive officer and became chairman of the board. In 1980, Mr. Cray resigned as chief executive officer, and in 1981, he stepped aside as chairman of the board to devote himself full time to the Cray-2 project as an independent contractor for Cray Research. For some time, he remained a director and a member of the Policy Committee. Later, Cray worked to develop a successor to the Cray-2 system and explored gallium arsenic technology.

Following the CRAY-2, was the CRAY-3 which was not commercially successful. Too far behind schedule and too many technologically hurdles left, this is why the machine got dumped by the management. He never completed the CRAY-4 and left the company.

When he had to close the doors on Cray Computer Corporation in 1994, he immediately began to evaluate options available to build high performance systems out of commodity parts. He was impressed with the strides that the microprocessor manufacturers had made, and was convinced that within another iteration or two, the off-the-shelf microprocessor would provide performance competitive with custom processors. Convinced early this year that he knew he could provide very high performance at very low cost, he put into place his plans and started a new company, one which bears his initials, SRC Computers, Inc. The company will continue to follow the path laid out by Seymour and will deliver a product of Seymour's design.

He died in 1996 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from injuries suffered from a car accident.


Famous quote

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."



1925 Born in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, USA

1950 B.S. Electrical Engineering, University of Minnesota

1950-1957 Engineering Research Associates

1951 M.S. Applied Mathematics, University of Minnesota

1957-1972 Control Data Corp.

1972-1989 Cray Research Inc.

1989-1995 Cray Computer Corp.,

1996 SRC Computers Inc.,

1996 Died caused by a car accident


Honors and awards

1968 awarded the W.W. McDowell Award by the American Foundation of Information Processing Societies for his work in the computer field.

1972 presented with the Harry H. Good Memorial Award for his contributions to large-scale computer design and the development of multiprocessing systems.



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