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Minisupercomputers constituted a short-lived class of computers that emerged in the mid-1980s, characterized by the combination of vector processing and small-scale multiprocessing. As scientific computing using vector processors became more popular, the need for lower-cost systems that might be used at the departmental level instead of the corporate level created an opportunity for new computer vendors to enter the market. As a generalization, the price targets for these smaller computers were one-tenth of the larger supercomputers.

Several notable technical, economic, and political attributes characterize minisupercomputers. First, they were architecturally more diverse than prior mainframes and minicomputers in hardware and less diverse in software. Second, advances in VLSI made them less expensive (mini-price). These machines were market targeted to be cost-effective and quickly manufactured. Third, it is notable who did not manufacture minisupercomputers: within the USA, IBM and the traditional mainframe makers, outside the USA: the Japanese supercomputer vendors and Russia (despite attempts to manufacture minicomputers).

The appearance of even lower-priced scientific workstations (e.g., Dana Computer/Ardent Computer/Stellar Computer (the merger of these companies)) based on microprocessors with high performance floating point units (FPUs) during the 1990s (such as the MIPS R8000, IBM POWER2), and Weitek eroded the demand for this class of computer.

The industry magazine Datamation coined the term "Crayette" which in short order meant instruction set compatible to Cray Research, Inc.

Notable minisupercomputer companies

This list is sorted alphabetically, and many entries here are to companies that no longer exist.


  1. ^ Getting Up to Speed. 2004-02-03. doi:10.17226/11148. ISBN 978-0-309-09502-0.