Mac Pro: Seymour Cray would have approved

The original 128K Mac turned into thirteen.6” high, nine.6” wide, 10.nine” deep (35.4 x 24.4 x 26.4 cm) and 16.five lb (7.5 kg). Today’s Mac seasoned is nine.nine″ by 6.6″ (25 by 17 cm) and weighs eleven lb (five kg) — smaller, shorter, and lighter than its historic progenitor. Open your hand and stretch your hands extensive: the space from the top of your pinky to the end of your thumb is inside the nine to ten inches variety (for maximum adult males). This gives you an idea of how astonishingly small the Mac seasoned is.

At 7 teraflops, the brand new pro’s performance specs are superb…however what’s even more astounding is how all that computing energy is crammed into the sort of small package deal without everything melting down. Look inside the new Mac pro and you’ll find a Xeon processor, dual AMD FirePro photos engines, important memory, a strong-country “pressure”, pushed by 450W of most electric strength… and all cooled through an unmarried fan. The previous Mac seasoned model, at simplest 2 teraflops, needed 8 blowers to maintain its GPU glad.

The Mac pro achieves a level of “computing electricity density” that Seymour Cray — the master of finding methods to cool excessive-performance, tightly packaged structures, and a Mac consumer himself — might have accepted of.

(I’ve long been an admirer of Seymour Cray, ever for the reason that introduction of his organisation’s first business supercomputer, the CDC 6600. Inside the early 1990s, I used to be a Board member and investor at Cray Inc. My recollections of Seymour would fill an entire Monday word. In case, you’re acquainted with the call however now not the supercomputer genius himself, I can advocate the Wikipedia article; it’s quite properly-written.)

At some point of Cray’s technology of supercomputing — the 1960’s to early ninety’s — processors were discrete, constructed from separate additives. All of those building blocks needed to be saved as close to each different as viable on the way to live in sync, to live inside the equal “time horizon”. (Grace Hopper’s famous “one nanosecond equals a foot of cord” illustration involves mind.) but, quicker the electronic module is, the more warmth it generates, and while additives are packed tightly together, it becomes increasingly hard to pump out enough warmness to avoid a meltdown.


That’s in which Cray’s genius expressed itself. No longer best ought to the plots impossibly tight circuit paths to assure the identical propagation time for all logic signals, he designed those paths in ways that allowed good enough cooling. He now and again cited himself, half of-seriously, as a good plumber.

(Seymour as soon as advised me he should fold an in shape, alternate of shirt, and undies in his small Delsey briefcase, and therefore velocity via airports at the way to a fund raising assembly even as his funding bankers struggled with their unwieldy Hartmann garment baggage…)


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I ultimately met Seymour in December 1985 at the same time as I was head of Apple’s Product development. The Mac Plus task become basically completed and the Mac II and Mac SE projects were also on their manner (they would release in 1987). Having catered to the maximum urgent duties, we have been searching at a greater distant horizon, at approaches to leap ahead of all and sundry else in the non-public computer discipline. We concluded we needed to layout our very own CPU chip, a quad-processor (today we’d call it a “four-center chip”). To do that, we wanted a pc that would run the layout and simulation software for such a bold venture, a computer of commensurate capabilities, subsequently our choice of a Cray X/MP, and the go to Seymour Cray.

For the layout of the chip, the plan turned into to work with AT&T Microelectronics — no longer the AT&T we recognize now, however the domestic of Bell Labs, the birthplace of the transistor, Unix, the c language, mobile telephony and many innovations. Our selection to create our personal CPU wasn’t universally nicely-received. The most harsh critics cast Apple as a “toy employer” that had no enterprise designing its personal CPU chip. Others understood the concept however felt we massively underestimated the technical challenges. Regrettably, they grew to become out to be proper. AT&T Microelectronics ultimately bailed out of the microprocessor commercial enterprise altogether.


(Given this records, I couldn’t help be amused whilst critics scoffed at Apple’s selection to gather P.A. Semiconductor in 2008 and, over again, try to layout its very own microprocessors. Even if the chip might be built, Apple ought to by no means compete against the properly-set up professionals in the discipline… and it’d cost Apple one billion bucks, either way. The number was broadly off the mark – and understanding Apple’s financials wouldn’t count besides. We understand what passed off: The 64-bit A7 device took the industry with the aid of surprise.)

Thirty years after the introduction of the authentic Mac, the Mac pro is each different and regular. It’s not a gadget for absolutely everyone: in case you usually just use everyday workplace productivity apps, an iMac will provide extra bang for less greenback (because of this that, lamentably, I don’t qualify as a Mac pro person). But just like the 128K Mac, the Mac pro is devoted to our innovative aspect; it serves the those who produce audio and video content material, who run photographs-extensive simulations. As Steve put it so nicely, the Mac seasoned is on the crossroad of era and liberal arts:

Nonetheless, thirty years later, I discover the Mac, pro or “ordinary” each bit as seductive, promising – and on occasion frustrating – as its now enshrined progenitor.

As a completion, the Mac seasoned, like its ancestor, is designed and assembled within the US.

Postscript. At the threat of spoiling the laugh within the staggering Making the all-new Mac pro video, I ponder approximately the comparison between the effective production operation depicted inside the video and the shipping constipation. When I ordered my iMac early October 2013, I was promised delivery in five-7 business days, an unusual echo of the December 2012 area iMac shipments shortfall. The system arrived 5 weeks later with our clarification or up to date forecast. Permit’s wish this was due to higher than anticipated call for, and that Apple’s declare that Mac pro orders will deliver “in March” received’t leave media execs trying.

Elizabeth R. Cournoyer

Web enthusiast. Internet fanatic. Music geek. Gamer. Reader. Hipster-friendly coffee practitioner. Spent 2001-2007 merchandising human hair in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Spent 2001-2007 short selling tinker toys in Fort Walton Beach, FL. Spent 2001-2007 importing acne in Phoenix, AZ. Spent several months importing methane in Mexico. Spent the better part of the 90's creating marketing channels for wooden horses in Bethesda, MD. Lead a team implementing toy monkeys in Deltona, FL.

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