About the time CSRD was being formed, Larry Smarr, professor of astronomy, was lobbying in Washington, D.C., for a National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at UIUC. Smarr's cross-disciplinary proposal contained contributions from several faculty members in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, including a contribution from Karl Hess. When Smarr's proposal was funded, Karl Hess was among the initial users of the first supercomputing system -- the $12 million CRAY X-MP/24. Hess was doing pioneering research on the use of Monte Carlo techniques for semiconductor device simulation. Faculty members and graduate students in the Electromagnetics Laboratory were also among the early users of the CRAY.
With the availability of the CRAY, Hess received funding from NSF to establish a National Center for Computational Electronics. More than 50 universities and industries joined the center. One of the attractive features of the center was the superior computer graphics available in NCSA. Hess commented that the first video he made of a CRAY simulation of a high-speed transistor turning off and on cost more to make than the movie "Rambo."
In 1991, NCSA has 240 staff members who assist industrial partners and university scientists in using supercomputers in scientific applications. NCSA operates a CRAY 2, a CRAY Y-MP, and a 64,000 Processor Connection machine. Numerous graphics workstations are also available for visualization of the numerical results.
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