Tony Vacca - VP Technology ETA Systems


In the 80's ETA Systems was formed by Control Data as the Supercomputer "spin-out" company chartered to develop Supercomputers, i.e.; the "huge" computers for those who cannot recall the term for that era. The leaders (Lloyd Thorndyke and Neil Lincoln) had impressive credentials in the high performance computation field.

I had the good fortune to be swept out of Control Data together with 20 or so innovative technologists (over 120 in all left Control Data at the initial formation) and asked to lead the mainframe hardware technology team.

The hardware folks (us) had three boundaries: schedule, budget and a mainframe performance objective (clock period).

It was a challenge since other companies had set the bar very high for schedule and performance  when ETA Systems entered the "game."  It was even more difficult since the budget was more stringent than the competition (Cray Research, NEC and Fujitsu were the main folks in this business).  Enough whining, it was one of the most enjoyable times in the computer business of my life.  The other one was later when I had a similar job with equal challenges at Cray Research Inc. (Another story for another time)

IEEE GHN asked me to participate in recalling and documenting some of ETA Systems. I feel truly flattered and will do my best. I will steer clear of the organizational and political exercises, and focus on the hardware main-frame (CPU or heart of the Supercomputer hardware).  Remarkable events occurred in a brief 4 to 6 years.  The key focus will be on not only the decisions, but the motivations, processes, luck but also the people and thinking that resulted in the hardware of the ETA-10, the first (and quite possibly only) system fabricated with a Cryogenic Central Processing Unit or CPU.