Video: Mini-Doc on Seymour Cray

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It’s Seymour Cray’s birthday, so today I decided to share of one of my proudest achievements in my time at Cray Research–this video tribute to Seymour that I helped produce shortly after his tragic death in 1996.

Before we shot the interviews, I went through hours and hours of archival footage, and then I found this amazing piece where the interviewer asked Seymour how he wanted to be remembered. That moment and the simplicity of his answer sticks with me to this day. If you’ve ever wondered what kind of person he was, this will bring it home.

You may not know this, but the car accident that ended Seymour Cray’s life was the result of road rage. He was going too slowly for someone, and the driver cut him off after passing him on the freeway ramp.

I think we all owe a lot to Seymour Cray. The supercomputing industry he created has put bread on my table for the bulk of my career. Maybe we can start to pay him back by not being in such a hurry. Whatever mega-work stress you’re carrying around with you, please, please don’t take it with you behind the wheel.


  1. Marc Hamilton says

    What an inspiring video, I hope everyone takes six minutes to watch it!

  2. Henry Newman says



  3. wow. Thanks for sharing this – along with the insight in your article.

  4. Thank you Red Beetle! We need some inspiration!
    Thank you Seymour! We all Crayve that good old innovation!
    Icons and Iconic – the real SUPER in computing!
    Happy Birthday!

    LOVED THIS! (sigh)
    See Newman .. if you’re right … not only do you lose … we all lose!

  5. Rich,

    Thanks for posting this great piece. I really enjoyed it. I never worked with Seymour Cray, but his reputation among those who did has always impressed me. To be an innovator of historic proportions, an admired leader, and a well loved figure is a trifecta to be greatly admired.


  6. Thanks for putting up that fabulous video.

    BTW, road rage may have had something to do with it, but the root cause was brainless road layout. The on-ramp came before the off-ramp, so fast moving traffic coming off the expressway had to cross through slow moving traffic (Seymour) coming on. The engineer who designed it should have been done for manslaughter.

  7. Stephen Perrenod says

    Thanks Rich, great to see this. One of my significant treasures is Seymour’s autograph on a Cray 2 photograph.

  8. Hi Rich,

    I worked with Seymour at CRI and CCC in the late 80s and 90s. It is hard to explain the significance of Seymour’s impact to the world and to those of us lucky enough to have spent time with him on a daily basis. This piece took me back to that time. The challenges, the milestones, the inspiration and the focus on the end goal. Thank you for posting this piece.

  9. John Champine says

    I echo the thanks for posting the video. As others have said, it brings back lots of fond memories of Seymour & his amazing talents. There is one point that the video misses, and that is Seymour’s life before the start of CDC in 1957. Seymour’s career actually started in 1950 at ERA (Engineering Research Associates) in St. Paul. He was an engineer on the Univac 1 (aka the 1101) and a lead engineer on the Univac 1103 – largely credited with being the first commercially successful scientific computer. My older brother, George Champine, work on software development under Seymour, and said that he was the smartest engineering talent he had ever seen.

  10. Merdi Rafiei says

    Thank you for the video. They don’t make them like they used to anymore (both the man and the machine)!

    Merdi Rafiei

  11. John Renwick says

    Thanks for that great memorial! I cut my digital teeth on the Navy’s Univac NTDS systems and CDC 1604-A and 160-A, all early Cray designs. Compared with some of the IBM peripherals I had to understand and maintain (design hodgepodges, really), studying the Cray logic was like appreciating a Leonardo painting or a Michelangelo sculpture — elegant organization, and spareness that always left me in awe. When I eventually found out who was responsible for this, I had to go to work for him, and that led to a career for which I will always be grateful to Seymour Cray. My life might have turned out very differently if I had not been so inspired by his beautiful logic.