Living Amongst the Wizards of Cray Research
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Living Amongst the Wizards of Cray Research

About the Book

Cray Research supported the National Security Agency's philosophy of NOBUS (Nobody But Us) by building the world's fastest supercomputers. Charles Murray tells that story in The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards behind the Supercomputer (John Wiley, 1997). The first Cray Research supercomputer was bare metal. We supplied no software whatsoever! The second supercomputer (CRAY-1 serial number 2) never existed--until the NSA declassified its delivery decades later. Serial number 3 included operating system and Fortran compiler. That's how our Cray Research Software Division was born.

What was it like, walking the hallways of "Nobody But Us"? We created "The Cray Style", a description of our environment, expectations, mutual respect. Within Cray Research I developed an intuition, a deep understanding of how computers work, that has served throughout my career. I'll be walking you through these experiences. I find that the fun is in the challenges. Thus, I assure you, we'll have fun along the way! I'll even show you how we programmed "Big Iron" (the large mainframes of the era) as "Bare Metal" (straight-up assembly language with no operating system getting in the way). But don't worry! If "bare metal" is not your thing, I'll show you how to safely skip ahead to the next adventure.

Imposter Syndrome, and striving to be "the best of the best", often travel hand-in-hand. Imposter Syndrome remains quite common in our industry. Therefore, I'll show you the likely origin of my own variant and how I slowly reached past its effects. In fact, you may find this perspective the most important part of the book!

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    • Computers and Programming
    • Software Engineering
    • Computing History
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About the Author

Ed Barnard
Edward Barnard

Edward Barnard has experienced two consecutive 20-year careers in software development. He soldered together his first computer from a handful of resistors, diodes, switches, and lights in 1968 at age 10. He taught himself FORTRAN IV two years later. High school brought BASIC. College introduced ALGOL, assembly language, and Pascal.

His first career was operating system development amongst the wizards of Cray Research. Ed's second 20-year career has been web software development for countless clients, companies, and projects. He enjoys sharing what he's learned along the way through magazine articles, books, and speaking at conferences. He and wife Susan get outdoors when they can to camp the Minnesota winter with no mosquitoes.

Table of Contents

    • Preface: The Wizards
      • Intuition
      • Run with Your Strengths
      • Nobody But Us
      • The “Beta”
      • Imposter Syndrome
  • Part I: The Cray Style
    • Chapter 1. My NSA Mug Shot
      • But Where…?
      • Safe Arrival
      • Round Tapes
      • Channel Extender
      • Horseshoes
      • Patterns in the Noise
      • Channel Commands
      • Spotting Weirdness
      • Deliberate Practice
      • Developing Expertise
      • Summary
    • Chapter 2. It Was Nothing, They Said
      • Dash Pig
      • Leap Day
      • Y2K Bug
      • Perspective
      • The Wizards
      • Magnetic Tape
      • Deadline
      • Modern Legacy Code
      • Summary
    • Chapter 3. Ducky Day
      • The Cray Style
      • Octal
      • Storytelling
      • Summary
    • Chapter 4. Profile of the “Real Programmer”
      • A Debugging Skill
      • Coding Challenges
      • Fizz Buzz
      • Recursion
      • Whiteboard Interview
      • Insecurities
      • Profile Describing a Real Programmer
      • Track and Field
      • Fizz Buzz Practice
      • Learning
      • Summary
    • Chapter 5. Think Like a Computer
      • Primary
      • Popular Electronics
      • Turing Tumble
      • Crypto
      • Flow
      • Journey Versus Destination
      • Summary
  • Part II: Bare Metal
      • Conference Feedback
      • Bare Metal
      • Filling the Gap
    • Chapter 6. The Basics With a Side of Crypto
      • Crypto Problem
      • What We’ll Learn
      • The Library
      • Numbering Systems
      • Logical Operations
      • Ones’ Complement Arithmetic
      • Two’s Complement Arithmetic
      • The Calculation
      • Learning
      • Summary
    • Chapter 7. Design an Algorithm in Your Head
      • Donald Knuth
      • Conversion
      • Algorithm
      • Decimal to Hexadecimal
      • Hexadecimal to Decimal
      • Base 62
      • Summary
    • Chapter 8. My First CRAY-1
      • The Cray Way
      • CRAY-1 Arrives
      • Bare Metal
      • Memory Banks
      • Row Major and Column Major
      • Summary
    • Chapter 9. Big Iron
      • Fast Forward
      • Scalar Logical
      • Scalar Shift
      • Special Register Values
      • Listing One
      • Instruction Buffer
      • Line Three
      • Scalar Merge
      • Listing Three
      • Functional Unit Segmentation
      • I/O Subsystem
      • Summary
  • Part III: Overseas and Back
    • Chapter 10. The Transitive Property of Keeping Your Mouth Shut
      • Minnesota
      • Valley Girls
      • Transitive Property
      • 9-Track
      • One More Play
      • My Turn to Teach
      • Equality
      • Summary
    • Chapter 11. The Veil
      • Photo Album
      • Initial Visit
      • Saudi Hospitality
      • Feast
      • Summary
    • Chapter 12. Oil Across the Water
      • Revisionist History
      • Grapevine
      • Standard Oil
      • The Relationship
      • Video and References
      • Summary
    • Chapter 13. Desert Shield
      • Notary Public
      • Summary
  • Part IV: Here Be Dragons
    • Chapter 14. Remembering “Scuzzy”
      • Software Division
      • Summary
    • Chapter 15. Gate Keeping
      • Burnout
      • Gate Keeping
      • The Unix Guru
      • On the Shoulders of Giants
      • Dragon Wrangling
      • Summary
    • Chapter 16. Imposter Syndrome
      • Imposter Syndrome
      • Different Way of Thinking
      • Software Training
      • Paying it Forward
      • Wizard Thinking
      • The Dark Side
      • Shoulders of Giants
      • The Gatekeeper
      • Resources
      • What Do You Hear?
  • Part V: The Art of Intuitive Debugging
    • Chapter 17. What Can the NSA Teach Us About Debugging?
      • Intuition
      • Superpowers
      • Summary
    • Chapter 18. Problem in a Box
      • Once More
      • Loud Whiteboards
      • Fitting the Problem Into a Box
      • Task Main Loop
      • Summary
  • Notes

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