Mainframes And Supercomputers Mainframes The oldest category of computers is the mainframe. Mainframe computers are capable of great processing speeds and data storage. They are generally stored in specially wired, highly air conditioned rooms. Because they produce large amounts of heat they produce they are water or air-cooled. Mainframes are made of thousands of light bulb like fixtures called vacuum tubes. They are typically the size of a jeep and range in price from $50,000 to $5 million.
These machines are primarily used by large companies such as banks, insurance companies, and airlines, that handle millions of transactions. Mainframes were first produced in the 1940’s. Some companies are still using the first mainframes produced such as the Univac. The world has invested one trillion dollars in mainframe computers, sixty percent of which were made and sold by IBM. With the invention of the microprocessor and printed circuit boards mainframes are often being replace by smaller networked computers.
As time progresses mainframes will be kept for some purposes, networks of smaller computers will grow, and the mainframe will be reinvented.(Hutchinson) The ENIAC was the first mainframe computer produced. It used 18,000 vacuum tubes, and occupied 1,800 square foot of floor space. It used punch cards for input and output. Supercomputers Supercomputers are the fastest computers every made. They generally range in price from $225,000 to $30 million. They are high capacity machines that require specially air conditioned rooms. Supercomputers are for people who need to model complex, lifelike situations.
Supercomputers are used to simulate car crashed and for weather forecasting. The most powerful supercomputer, Janus, built by Intel, enables scientists to simulate the explosion of a nuclear bomb. In 1995 the National Science Foundation and MCI Communications established a 14,000 mile network called the Very-High-Performance Backbone Network Service(VBNS). The VBNS links the five highest concentration of supercomputer, each locations having up to six supercomputers, into “the new internet.” A scientist sitting at any machine could have access to any other machine on the network. Presently this network is only used by a very elite group of scientist for extremely complex projects.