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Cray Y-MP installed

The 4-processor, 1.3 billion calculations per second Cray Y-MP arrived and was put into production late 1990, replacing the Cray X-MP. By the time it retired, over 6,200 researchers and their students performed more than 100,000 hours of calculations on its four processors. The machine's speedy floating point performance, coupled with copious memory and disk resources, allowed scientists to explore problems in astrophysics, chaos, chemistry,...

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Smog simulation of the LA basin

Team visualizes impact of smog

The animations and visualizations that NCSA created in the late 1980s aided dozens of researchers. Their impact multiplied when, in 1990, the center built a top-flight digital post-production suite. The facility cost more than $1 million and allowed the visualization team to edit and package their creations more easily and in more advanced ways. "That's not something research centers did at the time. It wasn't something...

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Yellowstone Park's forest fire history

NCSA models Yellowstone fires

Not all forest fires are bad. They play a vital role in the dynamics of forest evolution, transforming fallen plant material to essential nutrients that leach into the soil, opening the canopy so seedlings can get sunlight, and encouraging plant and wildlife diversity. An animation by NCSA experimental technologies guru Alan Craig brought this fact home. A collaboration between the University of Illinois, Fort Lewis College...

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Connection Machines' CM-2

NCSA installs first massively parallel supercomputer

Though the center was begun with a straightforward mission to provide computing time to the nation's scientists and engineers, innovative new systems have always been on the machine room floor, too. "We try to build a ladder where we have both rock solid persistent resources and machines that are experimental," said Michael Welge, who has been at NCSA since the last 1980s and is now...

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Thunderstorm visualization debuts at SIGGRAPH

Bob Wilhelmson, NCSA's former Chief Science Officer, had no problem generating simulations that spawn tornadoes. In the late 1980s, however, a wicked thunderstorm that threatened to spawn a tornado was the most computing power at the time would allow. Even that was thrilling, though. "In the 1970s, I had to travel to the National Center for Atmospheric Research. ARPANET access gave me an early look at...

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NCSA’s Cray-2 installed

NCSA now has two Cray supercomputers to meet the rapidly increasing national demand for computational power in a wide range of fields. The Cray-2 system joins the Cray X-MP supercomputer to contribute advances in science, engineering, economics, medicine, the humanities, and other fields. The Cray-2 has a 128 million word memory—sixteen times the memory of the X-MP—and has a peak performance speed of 1.7 billion calculations...

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NCSA's Software Development Group

NCSA releases HDF, Image, and DataScope

Scientific computing can be a messy business. "We were constantly encountering problems of different computing platforms having different data formats," said Mike Folk, who has been with NCSA since 1988. "Scientists also wanted different types of data to all be mixed into a single file." NCSA HDF—a general file format for scientific data management, as well as software for analyzing and converting data—answered the call. Today,...

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John Kogut connected to the Cray X-MP supercomputer

Kogut simulates quantum chromodynamics

Around the halls of NCSA, he was affectionately referred to as "The Sponge." University of Illinois physics professor John Kogut, who had been one of the co-principal investigators on the initial proposal for a supercomputer center, was willing to sop up any unused computing cycles. "John Kogut and his group used half of the original supercomputer," explained Larry Smarr, NCSA's first director. "It was a two-processor...

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NCSA Telnet

Center releases NCSA Telnet

The way researchers--and everyday people--use computational resources is often as important as the resources themselves. "NCSA had a workstation support group since well before I got here," said Mike Folk, who has been at the center since 1988. "Workstation support means updating your virus check program now. At the time, though, it meant helping the scientists at the local level. It was a very big...

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NCSA Private Sector Program Wall St. Journal ad

Industrial Program begins

From the earliest days, NCSA's leadership saw the power of working with industry-leading corporations. Close partnerships guaranteed that the technologies emerging from the center and the expertise that made its home at the center would be applied to real-world challenges. In the spring of 1986, the center kicked off its Industrial Partners program with a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal. By August, the...

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