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'The Most Beautifil Destruction...'


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'The Most Beautifil Destruction...'
Topic: Technology 12:29 pm EDT, Jun  4, 2007

Disclaimer: This is most likely just Pat messing around. I'm not claiming this story is true one way or the other. I'm just relaying a funny story I heard in last night in a bar.


Optyx is in Atlanta for the week and we got some drinks with John Terrill last night. A good time was had by all talking about crypto, web apps, the homies on #vax, brushes with the law, security charlatans, and new opportunities. The night was finished with a stumbling tour of Pat and my old stomping grounds: Georgia Tech.

If you don't know Optyx, he's forgotten more hacker stories then I'll ever have. The following is, as best as the beers will let me remember, the story of the Cray-2. I've tried to tell the story as close to the way Pat did. Any errors are the fault of Guinness

So I was living in San Francisco working at a web hosting startup. A friend of mine at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory gives me a heads up, saying they were decommissioning their Cray-2 super computer. I decided to buy it but the regulations said the lab had to hold a public auction to sell it. However, it didn’t say how far in advanced the time or place of the auction had to be published. Through some help from my friends at the lab an auction got setup where I was the only bidder.

The auctioneer wasn’t in on the scheme and he opened the bidding at $2000. I looked around, saw I was the only guy, and said “$1000.” They sold me the Cray-2 for a grand and I took back to my house on Treasure Island in the back of a U-haul. A Cray-2 weights more than a ton so this was not an easy task.

The big problem I had was how to power the thing. I hacked together a power converter and ran it off the 3 phase power outlet for the clothes dryer. But I had this girl roommate who used to complain about not being able to dry her clothes when she wanted because the computer was on. So the uptime of the super computer was dependent on the laundry habits of a roommate!

After the first month, I got the power bill. It was $2200. I decided it was time to sell the Cray.

Through a mutual friend, I found some .com yuppie who wanted to buy the Cray and use it as a couch. I sold it for around $3500 to recoup the cost of the machine and the power bill. I visited his house which was on the side of a hill in SF. You’d park in a 1 car garage underneath the house and used stairs to go up into it. It was like a big loft space on the 1st floor and that is where he decided to put the Cray-2. I asked him if his floor was reinforced because the Cray-2 weighted a ton. The yuppie said the house had steel floor beams and not to worry. I broke the Cray down for shipping (which consists of breaking it into 300 pound pieces you move around with a pallet dolly) and delivered it to his house. The stairs were really steep but with the help of a bunch of friends we got each piece into the house. I set it up for him in the living room but didn’t plug it in.

About 3 days later I get a call from the mutual friend. The Cray-2 broke through the floor causing serious damage to the house. It fell down into the garage and crushed the yuppie’s month old BMW 7 series. I immediately left work and went to the yuppie’s house.

It was the most beautiful destruction I have ever seen. A destroyed super computer on to of the crushed remains of a beautiful car. Most of the Cray looks like it had landed on the hood of the car just in front of where the windshield would be. The impact almost sheared the front of the car from the passenger compartment. It appears that the Cray then fell backward on top of the rest of the car, crushing it. Both axels were broken and there was glass everywhere.

And that was the story about how I owned a Cray-2 super computer for a month and a half.

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