Sunday, April 24, 2011

Definitive Seymour Cray quote

My last post (about Artificial Intelligence) reminded me of this quote from Watson's namesake:

Last week Control Data announced the 6600 system. I understand that in the laboratory developing the system there are only 34 people including the janitor. Of these, 14 are engineers and 4 are programmers. Contrasting this modest effort with our vast development activities, I fail to understand why we have lost our industry leadership position by letting someone else offer the world's most powerful computer.

--Thomas Watson, Jr., IBM CEO, August 28, 1963

Cray's response:

It seems Mr. Watson has answered his own question.

--Seymour Cray

This retort is right up there with the best from Franklin, Twain, or Churchill.

Update: 2011-04-25
I like the above quote best because it shows that small teams can have major successes, and that bloat/creep/unrealistic design parameters set by management sink projects. A good example is MS Vista. That project finally did see the light of day as a shipping product, but not without much consumer consternation.

Another good example of how small teams can do more with less is aircraft designer, Kelly Johnson's skunkworks operation. Whenever corporations get involved, costs go up and likely success rate goes down. A project can fall into the abyss at the heart of the military industrial complex. At least, Lockheed saw the wisdom in keeping some "back of the envelope" design guys on staff.

I'll end with one more Cray quote:

Parity is for farmers.

This was in response to a question why the CDC 6600 computer's memory systems didn't originally include memory parity (verification). Later, when the feature was added back in on later designs, he said the following:

Farmers buy a lot of computers.

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