“Cray systems” in popular culture

Cray supercomputers have shown up in popular culture, sometimes mentioning a specific machine type other times just using “Cray Computer”  in a generic sense. Listed here are some references to Cray systems in popular culture. Let us know if you know more.


  • Jurassic park – Mentioned in the Michael Critchton book but a Connection machine was used in the film.
  • Cray-designed a AI supercomputer called Europa used for research and worldwide hacking by the Event Group in author David Lynn Golemon‘s Event Group book series (2006)

Films Appearances


Sneakers with Robert Redford has something that looks like but is probably not a Cray system.


Al Grossmeier on FB reports 

Watching the 2007 movie “Breach” in one scene the characters are supposedly visiting a DOD intelligence agency and pass through a computer room. The systems and configuration look familiar …

    { looks like a Cray X1 set up Ed. }




A Million Miles away mentioned by Tom Arneberg


{Ed. : Having seen the film you can see the Cray-1 is a model and does not appear in the narrative of the film. The hero appears to do his calculation on a TRS-80 on the desktop.
However it is a great story of achievement by following a dream but working to achieve that dream.}




Films Production


The short film The Adventures of André & Wally B., released in 1984 by The Graphics Group, a then-Lucasfilm subsidiary which would later become Pixar, used an X-MP/48 for much of its rendering. Special thanks is given to Cray Research in the short’s credits for use of the machine.



The Last Starfighter

From Wikipedia …

“The computer graphics for the film The last Starfighter were rendered by Digital Productions (DP) on a Cray X-MP supercomputer. The company created 27 minutes of effects for the film. This was considered an enormous amount of computer generated imagery at the time.[4] For the 300 scenes containing computer graphics in the film, each frame of the animation contained an average of 250,000 polygons and had a resolution of 3000 × 5000 36-bit pixels. Digital Productions estimated that using computer animation required only half the time and between a third to half of the cost of traditional special effects. The result was a cost of $14 million for a film that made about $29 million at the box office.”

From Cray Channels

In case you haven’t read your news- paper’s movie guide lately, you may be interested in knowing that the movie “The Last Starfighter” is ap- pearing in theaters around the United States. Yes, Digital Produc- tions’ efforts on behalf of Lorimar Productions have come to fruition – and the result is quite amazing. Some 25 minutes of the movie were produced with Digital Productions’ CRA Y computers.

Computer-generated scenes are cut with live action in such a way that most viewers cannot tell the difference between the real and the imaginary. In one instance, the hero takes off in a space-like automobile, constructed in the traditional fashion by Lorimar, while a spaceship, created by Digital Productions, flies off into outer space. It’s virtually impossible to tell that they were created in different media when they are on the screen.

With the CRAYX-MP,Digital Productions is able to generate 400,000 to 1.5 million polygons per image. The hero-ship in Starfighter, the Gunstar, is composed of 750,000 polygons.

On a CRAY-1/S and then a CRAY X-MP, the computer-generated por- tions of Starfighter took 12 months of production with three months in preproduction for designing and planning. The CRAY X-MP gives Digital Productions the capability,. of produ cing two 90-minute featun-r-1~ films a year. Of course, the X-MP I takes it all in stride.

TV Shows

A Cray system was referenced briefly in the Season 7 Episode 17 “Homer the Smithers”



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