Just 30 years ago in 1985 the world's fastest supercomputer was the Cray 2.


If you have a fairly modern smartphone like an iPhone 6 or a Galaxy S6 you have a computer in your hand that is more powerful than a Cray 2. The Cray 2 was introduced in 1985 at a price of $12-17 Million each. Only 27 were ever built. It had 4 CPUs (Central Processing Units) and 2 billion bytes of memory. The CPUs could run 80 million instructions per second and operated on 64 bit words. It was so big it used 200 thousand Watts of electricity and had to be water cooled. It weighed 5,500 pounds, well over two tons, the average weight of a car in the US today.

No applications came with the system. It did have a UNIX operating system and a FORTRAN compiler. Users had to write their own apps, and there was no Graphical User Interface or mouse.

If you have a modern smartphone in your pocket or purse you have a computer that is quite similar to a Cray 2, but much better. For example take the Samsung Galaxy S6. The price for the smallest model is about $450. Samsung planed to sell 70 million in 2015. It has 8 CPUs (only 4 can be in use at one time) and 35-259 billion bytes of memory. Each CPU can run 1.5 billion instructions per second and like the Cray 2 they operate on 64 bit words. It uses less than 10 Watts of electricity and is cool enough to hold in your hand. It weighs 4.87 ounces.

The S6 uses the Android operating system, a distant relative to the UNIX operating system. But you probably don't need to write any applications because there are over 1.6 million Android apps as of July, 2015.

Plus the supercomputer in your pocket has additional hardware features that would have made no sense on the Cray 2: 2 high resolution photo/ video cameras (one with auto-focus and image stabilization), LED Flash, GPS receiver, Bluetooth transceiver, USB port, fingerprint reader, accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor, compass, barometer, heart rate sensor, oxygen saturation sensor, Wi-Fi transceiver, loudspeakers, microphone, jack for external stereo microphones and speakers or headphones, touch sensitive HD video display screen, wireless charging, infrared transmitter, near field communication transceiver, and vibrator.

Oh, and a cellular phone that will work on GSM, HSPA, and LTE networks with GPRS or EDGE for data transmission.

Cray-2 – 1985

Galaxy S6 - 2015

Only 27 ever made Plan to sell 70 Million in 2015
Price $12 – $17 Million Price $450
4 CPUs - 125 Megahertz each CPU - 8-cores 1.5 Gigahertz each
2 MB memory 3 GB RAM plus 32 GB Secondary storage
Water cooled Air cooled
NO APPS – write your own in FORTRAN 1.6 Million Android apps in July. 2015
200 Kilowatts 9.8 Watts
(a big light bulb is 100 Watts)  


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