Supercomputers have always been very large and expensive. They require a large amount of electrical power and exotic cooling systems. They are typically a shared resource only used at large government research laboratories and academic institutions. By the late 1980s a new class of minisupercomputer was introduced. With a price starting at less than one million dollars these smaller air-cooled systems could exclusively be used by a research group or academic department.
In the mid 1990s the Brown University Department of Physics was the first physics department in the U.S. to acquire a Cray system. In Augusts 1995 a Cray EL98 was installed. This was followed in late 1996 with the installation of a Cray J916. They were used for high-energy and condensed matter theoretical physics. Details of the research are at the Computational High Energy Physics group page.
|The Theory Cluster Machines webpage of the High Energy Physics Group at Brown University. The page was created in late 1995 and includes a publicity photo of the Cray EL98 that had just been installed. The snapshot was captured using NCSA X Mosaic on a SPARCstation 5 running Solaris.|
These supercomputers were used by Professor Gerald Guralnik who played a crucial role in developing the theory that predicted the existence of the Higgs boson. In a presentation from 2002 titled "Computing to Learn Physics while watching computers grow up" he describes his long involvement in computational physics.
|The Theory Computer Cluster machines included SGI graphics workstations which were used to visualize the data generated by the Cray supercomputers. The Sun SPARCstation 5 was the console used to start and manage the Cray J916.|
|The Cray J916 powered up at RCS/RI with a glowing System Ready light on the front of the mainframe cabinet. Photo by Dave Fischer.|