Mike Schaeffer's Blog

Articles with tag: in-memoriam
May 17, 2005

For some reason, I've been thinking a lot lately about Seymour Cray. When I was growing up, I remember asking my dad about who made the fastest computers in the world, and the answer at the time was Cray. I don't know if he meant the man or the company, but for a while both were true. I suppose it made an impression.

I've found a bunch of good things online about the man and his work:

Reading through them, a couple of things made impressions on me:

  • He didn't mind throwing bad ideas away (or saving them for later). The Cray 1 took a very different approach from the CDC 8600.
  • Cray failed a lot. He was always pushing the limits and taking risks, and paid the price of those risks. The CDC 8600 failed, as did several designs for the Cray 2. The Cray 3 failed to sell, and the 4 doesn't seem to have hit the prototype stage at all. Even the Cray 2 doesn't seem to have been an unqualified success, thanks to issues with memory bandwidth.
  • He had a very 'startup mentality'. His career seems to be a repeating story of initial success, spin off lab, and spin off company.
  • A lot of his design problems weren't electronic at all. He seems to have struggled as much (if not more) with packaging and cooling as with anything else.
  • He had a keen sense of style. With the possible exception of the Connection Machine CM-1/2, his machines were the most visually striking of the major supercomputers. Maybe it's superficial, but it can't have hurt the sales or publicity.
  • He knew what he had accomplished. There's a story about his suprise when Steve Chen developed the X-MP from the Cray 1 and doubled (?) the performance. Of course, the story goes on to describe how Cray ended up appreciating the new design.

Anyway, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the man and his accomplishments. R.I.P, Mr. Cray.

February 27, 2005

Reading Slashdot today, I heard that Jef Raskin has passed away from cancer. If you don't know who Jef is, it's safe to say that you have been influenced by his ideas if you're reading this blog.

Dr. Raskin was one of the first human interface experts to contribute to and be involved in the Apple Macintosh. computer. While it's true that the design took a different direction from some of his initial ideas, he played a major role in defining the user interface ethic of the Macintosh, and consequently basically every other major computer interface.

After leaving Apple, Jef went on to continue his ideas with the SwyftCard and Canon Cat. The best articulation I've seen of his ideas regarding interface design is in his book, The Humane Interface. He has also put a great deal of his work on his personal website.

This is a sad day, indeed.