The world’s largest collection of vintage supercomputers is in Roswell, Georgia

Roswell’s Computer Museum shows off the Model Ts of the tech world

1996
Computer Museum of America - Cray 1A

Photograph by Stephen Payne

For decades, well before we had iPhones and laptops, Atlanta real-estate developer Lonnie Mimms collected hardware, software, prototypes, and other pieces of computing history, much like a lover of contemporary art. In July, Mimms opened the Computer Museum of America, a 40,000-square-foot tribute to hundreds of thousands of technological throwbacks dating to the mid-1800s, in Roswell, the heart of North Fulton’s Tech Hub. The permanent collection includes Vanquishing the Impossible, 25 iconic and original supercomputers that could conduct space exploration, weather simulations, medical research, and more. Among the items: the rare Cray 1A, named after Seymour Cray, the father of supercomputing.

  • Sometimes called the “world’s most expensive loveseat,” this Cray 1A Supercomputer was manufactured in 1977, weighs 10,500 pounds, and occupies 39 square feet of floor space. People actually did sit on the surrounding bench.
  • The purchaser of each supercomputer could pick the color of the machine. The Minnesota Supercomputing Institute chose purple in honor of the Minnesota Vikings.
  • The Cray’s central processing unit operates at 80 million instructions per second and can perform 160 million arithmetic calculations per second.
  • Fewer than 100 Cray 1A supercomputers were made. They were purchased by government agencies, educational institutions, and large corporations. The original retail price was approximately $8 million (more than $27 million in today’s economy).
  • With more than 25 Cray Supercomputers, the Computer Museum of America has the largest such collection in the world.
  • The Cray 1A holds just 303 MB worth of storage. Today’s top iPhone contains 512 GB of storage, which is roughly 1,700 times as much capacity.

The Computer Museum of America is located at 5000 Commerce Parkway in Roswell. Open only on weekends. Tickets start at $10 for children, $15 for adults. computermuseumofamerica.org

This article appears in our August 2019 issue.

Editor’s note: The original version of the story incorrectly equated memory and storage. The math has been updated using the correct storage specs.

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