MDD

Monday, 28 September 2015

Cray was a legend in computers and said...


Selected quotes: 

From around 5' mark 
"So, let me tell you a little bit, a few of the problems, that ah, and the solutions that I see in building large computers.
First of all... I think that building large computers should be done with the fewest possible people.
One is perfect, but you can't quite work with one.
So.. the next best thing is about 12."

"The reason you need 12 is you kind of need one person from each of the disciplines that are necessary.
You need a mechanical engineer to build the box that it'll go in.
You need an electrical engineer to put the circuit together.
You need a little bit of logic... and programmer here and there
And you need a secretary of course.
But not very many."

From around 6' mark 
[On the projects I've been involved in]
"the number of people involved has been pretty much constant.
... from a low of 25 to a high of 40.
[Small enough] that's a group where I can remember everybody's name, which I think is kind of important, but large enough enough so that we can in fact build large scientific computers."
...My current company has 25 people, it started 2 years ago, and I certainly wouldn't want any more, it's kind of crowded."
...Our current machine is far enough along that it's starting to run programs.
"A small group of people is kind of essential.
And ah, the extent to which I've been successful in building large machines I think that is one key thing.

From around 8' mark
"...and another key point, that's perhaps equally important is discipline.
If you work in a large corporation it's very hard to keep on one track for 4 or 5 years.
And 4 or 5 years is how long you need to keep on track to work on a project like that.
So continuity is, .. is another very very important thing.
And to develop the continuity I mean not only the scope of the organisation that's providing the money for you but also the continuity in the sense of people sticking around and finishing the job.
It's hard to design a computer if the person who designed it has left and has been replaced twice by somebody else."
So another characteristic, the people I'm working with today, my little elves, are all kind of old little elves, they've all been around since the early 50s or mid 50s.
...And that brings me to another important point that I think you'll appreciate and that hit me hard this year.
Because, we decided we were all getting too old and something should be done.


From around 9' mark
"...So we decided that we would hire 8 new people, fresh out of school, who didn't know a thing about computers.
They might know a little bit about electronics a little bit about physics maybe.
But ah, let's say three of them were college graduates, three of them from trade schools.
And we'd just sit 'em down and try to teach them about this huge complex computer that we were designing and see how far we'd get.
Well, the shocking thing was, it was only about three months, and they were doing so well at it,  that they were telling me about my design and what was wrong with it.
And by golly they were right.
These new kids were, were finding flaws in my logic design that I wouldn't have found myself.
And yet they had no experience prior to a few months of contact.
And I guess one of the things was that they were so unimpressed.
They had no idea, really, that this was supposed to be a big powerful machine.
And they were so unimpressed, that of course, you know, that they thought this was what everybody did that graduated from school.
[laughter]
And with an attitude like that, it's amazing, I guess maybe we are building simple computers.
..."