The first post on this subject was focused on Cray supercomputers, which place beautiful images on the front to add an artistic touch to their technically-impressive machines.
In this (second) post, I will mostly address the “beauty through design” approach taken by Cray and a few other supercomputer makers.
Let’s start with the Thinking Machines Corporation. Founded in 1983, it has delivered some of the most advanced (for its time) and good-looking computers ever. A brief promotional video for its first models is available on YouTube.
Thinking Machines’ CM-5 Supercomputer, also known as FROSTBURG , was installed at the US National Security Agency (NSA) in 1991 for code-breaking tasks, and was operational until 1997:
No decorations, no frills. However, this supercomputer still remains one of the most futuristic-looking supercomputers ever. Its flashing and constantly changing red light panels showed processing node usage, and were also used for its diagnostics. In fact, this old supercomputer looks so good it ended up in a Jurassic Park movie:
To me, the CM-5 design actually looks inspired by the WOPR computer from WarGames (1983), which wasn’t a real computer, of course, but a realistically-looking movie prop:
Early Cray computers didn’t use pretty art on them, yet were clearly built with artistic forms in mind:
Now, let’s look at IBM and its Blue Gene/Q supercomputer, the third supercomputer design in the Blue Gene series. It has a peak performance of 20 petaflops, and was announced in 2011. At the following years, it had multiple installations at different facilities. One of them (at the Argonne National Lab), called MIRA, is shown below:
Even the back of this supercomputer looks artistic:
What about the famous IBM Watson? It is a pretty-looking computer, even if I don’t think it qualifies as a true supercomputer… According to Wikipedia, “its Linpack performance stands at 80 TeraFLOPs, which is about half as fast as the cut-off line for the Top 500 Supercomputers list.” So, it isn’t fast enough to be called “supercomputer.” But what Watson lacks in speed is compensated by its smarts.
In January 2016, the National Center for Atmosphere Research (NCAR) chose an HPE/SGI ICE XA system to facilitate the development of more advanced climate and weather models (BTW, HP has acquired SGI in 2016). The system was named “Cheyenne,” and was ranked #20 TOP500 list. In addition to being fast, Cheyenne also looks pretty. Well, “Cray-like pretty” (you know what I mean if you read Part 1):
Among other great-looking supercomputers that are worth mentioning is the Japanese “K Computer” from Fujitsu, which operates at 10.51 petaflops and is quite good-looking. This computer is currently installed at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science campus in Kobe, Japan:
Finally, the world-fastest Chinese “Sunway TaihuLight” (93 petaflops) looks great from this angle:
I almost forgot about one more maker of beautiful supercomputers from France− Bull.
This is Bull’s Sequana:
And this is Bull’s Curie:
Notice that the beautiful facade of this computer is not painted over but is covered by a decorative ornament:
This concludes my two-part analysis of the most beautiful supercomputers out there, as well as supercomputer art. However, since the world of supercomputers constantly evolves, there is a good chance that there will be a part 3 one day…