Seymour Cray

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Winning Nomination

Seymour Cray is widely considered to be one of the most brillant computer innovators ever. Although born in Wisconsin, he studied at the University of Minnesota and then cofounded Control Data. While there, he designed Control Data's first supercomputer. He subsequently left Control Data to found Cray Research, which was headquartered in Minnesota during the years in which it was pivotal in the supercomputer industry. Not only did Cray and his company have a huge impact on the worldwide computer industry, the cutting-edge research made possible by Cray supercomputers over the years has transformed many fields of science.
~Ann Calvert, Minneapolis, MN



Runner-up Nominations

Supercomputers Invented by Seymour Cray when he was with Control Data. At one time, Minnesota was the computer capitol of the world with Honeywell Information Systems, Univac, Control Data, all in Minneapolis. It all started in Minnesota with a company called ERA, Engineering Research Associates, that did military computer work during WWII.
~Dan Backman, Minneapolis, MN

Information/Computer Technology

1. MN played a key role in developing the very first computers beginning in the mid-1940s and continuing through the 1980s.

2. From the 1980s to the present, there have been many MN companies who are spin- offs from the original companies.

3. It's hard to imagine not having computer technology in our businesses, homes and schools.
~Mary Hoeve, Bloomington, MN

Computer Industry: The many computer companies in Minnesota transformed our nation. IBM, Univac, Control Data, Honeywell and all the other smaller players were instrumental in advancing the technology of computers.
~Ray Diekrager, Maplewood, MN

Obviously, we are now in the so-called computer age. So what did Minnesota contribute? Only the first commercially produced computers in the country. Obviously worthy of inclusion in the elite 150.

A group of former Navy men got together after WWII and started the Engineering Research Associates (ERA) located in the Twin Cities.

They developed a machine with a powerful magnetic drum, the earliest such storage device. Information was registered on tracks in a metal cylinder. The heads both registered information and recovered data.

The U.S. Navy was the first to use this efficient and, for its time, speedy machine. Not the first computer ever, but an important development worthy of being remembered in an exhibit.
~Steve Trimble, St. Paul, MN


Contents

History

(1925-1996)

The world's first supercomputer

Young Seymour Cray had a problem. He had rigged up a Morse Code device for post-bedtime communications between his bedroom and his sister's. But when the late-night clicking disturbed the rest of the household, Seymour's father told him to shut down his system. Some kids might have been daunted, but the budding inventor was spurred on to greater innovation. He converted his clickers to lights and kept right on chatting.

Born in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, in 1925, Cray earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1950 and a master of science degree in applied mathematics a year later. After graduation, he joined Engineering Research Associates (ERA) in St. Paul, where he quickly became a whiz at developing digital computer technology.

In 1957, Cray and other ERA employees founded Control Data Corporation. While at CDC, he led the design of the world's first commercial supercomputer, the CDC 6600. He went on to design a string of computers that were known for their elegance and simplicity but most of all for the speed at which they responded to their users' needs. In 1972, he left CDC to found Cray Research in Minneapolis and Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, which, by the late 1970s, was the world's leading maker of supercomputers.

The problem-solving talents that Cray displayed in his early years served him well throughout his life. Known as an idiosyncratic, quirky genius, he shunned meetings and preferred to work in solitude. His ability to avoid distractions was legendary. Once, when someone ordered a phone for him after noticing that he didn't have one, he was asked where he wanted it installed. "On a tree, outside my office," Cray answered with a smile.

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