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The Search For the Lost Cray Supercomputer Os

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Seymour Cray and a Cray-1 supercomputer.

A pair of hobbyists are recreating the Cray-1 supercomputer on a desktop scale.

Credit: Cray

In an effort to preserve an important piece of computing history, hobbyists Chris Fenton and Andras Tantos are recreating the renowned Cray-1 supercomputer on a desktop scale.

The Cray-1 debuted in 1976 as a 5.5-ton C-shaped tower, designed by computer architect Seymour Cray. The replica began in 2010 when Fenton, an electrical engineer who works on modern supercomputers, decided to physically reconstruct the Cray-1 at one-tenth its original size.

Because the Cray-1's hardware was documented in detail online, Fenton was able to replicate the design. He then found a board option that could mimic the original Cray computational architecture. However, to make his replica operational, Fenton needed software.

None of the code from the original operating system was available online, and neither the Computer History Museum nor the government had analog copies. Eventually, a former Cray employee heard about the project and offered a disk pack containing the final version of the Cray OS, written for the Cray X-MP. Tantos then wrote recovery tools to turn the information on the disk pack into working software, and devised a simulator for the software and peripheral equipment.

The Cray OS is now operational, and Fenton is upgrading his desktop system to be compatible with the Cray X-MP OS.

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