Historic Cray-1A moved from Boulder to Cheyenne
A Cray supercomputer that was in service at NCAR’s Mesa Lab facility from July 1977 to February 1989, then on public display through December 2021, is now in place at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) in Cheyenne.
The Cray-1A – serial number 3 off the Cray Research production line – was NCAR's fourth supercomputer. While an earlier system had been shipped to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1976 for a six-month trial period, NCAR was Cray Research's first official customer.
The 5.5-ton supercomputer arrived in Boulder in two refrigerated electronic vans, and it took more than 30 construction workers, engineers, and other helpers to move it inside. Removing it from the 1B basement level of the Mesa Lab required a similar effort. CISL staff used a custom lifting platform and a dolly – which Cray had made specifically for moving Cray-1A machines – to move the disassembled supercomputer down the hallways and through the Visualization Lab. A crane was used to lift the center section through an air shaft and onto a truck for the trip north.
The reassembled Cray-1A now sits behind a curved glass wall in full view of the NWSC Visitor Center. It is being refurbished with new acrylic panels and accent lighting.
NWSC Senior Advisor Gary New, who served as the facility’s operations manager from its inception through 2021, said relocating the system was motivated in part by Mesa Lab changes that would have limited public access to it in the basement. It was too big and heavy to place in the library or elsewhere, and the NWSC decision was made. “It will be especially significant to have the Cray-1A here once we take delivery of the new Cray ‘Derecho’ supercomputer this year,” he added. “The contrast between them will be very impressive.”
For more about the move and the Cray-1A, see: