THE SUPERMEN by Charles J. Murray


The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards Behind the Supercomputer
Email this review


 The name Cray is to the computer world what Ferrari is to the automotive world: a synonym for sheer speed and engineering bravado. Here's the story of the man behind the name, from Murray, a senior editor at Design News. Seymour Cray was among the young WW II vets who found an engineering job at Minnesota-based ERA, one of the companies that grew up in response to the continuing military demand for advanced computers. He was almost immediately recognized as a genius. Cray combined a quick grasp of theory with the willingness to sit and hard-wire his own circuits. It was his recognition, in 1954, that transistor technology allowed both greater speed and reliability that catapulted him into the front rank of industrial genius. Moving to the newly founded Control Data Company, at age 35 Cray produced the CDC 1604, the fastest machine ever built. Impatient with the corporate rituals of meetings, lunches, and political maneuvering, Cray soon moved CDC's research facilities to Chippewa Falls, Minn., and continued to design faster and faster machines. His design philosophy was unique: He insisted on building every new computer from the ground up, while resisting the temptation to base his designs on untried technology. Eventually his independence led him away from CDC to found Cray Research. The Cray 1, the first computer to adopt integrated-circuit technology, became the instant standard by which all other machines were judged. But by 1989, Cray's maverick ways led him to split from his own company, searching for even faster and better computers. By then, though, the loss of Cold War funding had changed the economic landscape; there were no longer customers willing to pay whatever it cost to get the fastest possible machine. The Cray 4, his last completed design, never reached the marketplace. Murray tells the story of Cray compellingly, and few readers will be able to close the book without a regret at the passing of an age when such independent giants could rule the world. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1997
ISBN: 0-471-04885-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1996