NERSC: Powering Scientific Discovery Since 1974

The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center got its start with a cast-off computer and couple of modems in 1974. Today its supercomputing systems fuel the science of thousands of researchers working on hundreds of projects across every scientific discipline.

In 1974, an almost-obsolete supercomputer once used for defense research was made available to support the fusion energy research community, the first time such a powerful computing resource was used for unclassified scientific computing. That start as the Controlled Thermonuclear Research Computing Center marked the launch of what today is known as the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.;xNLx;Located at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1974-96, the center was renamed the National Magnetic Fusion Energy Computing Center in 1976 and in 1983 began providing a fraction of its computing cycles to other research areas. To reflect its increasingly broad scientific mission, the center was christened the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center in 1990. The center moved to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 1996 and was renamed the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center.;xNLx;Through the years, NERSC’s mission has remained consistent: to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery by providing high performance computing, information, data and communications services to the DOE Office of Science community.;xNLx;Today NERSC serves thousands of researchers from universities, national laboratories and industry worldwide, one of the largest and most diverse research communities of any computing facility. Over its long history, the facility and its staff have developed an outstanding reputation for providing both high-end computing systems and comprehensive scientific client services.

1973-06-01 10:08:24

A Computing Center for Fusion Energy

In June, Alvin Trivelpiece, deputy director of the Controlled Thermonuclear Research (CTR) Program of the Atomic Energy Commission, looking to significantly expand the use of computers to aid in reaching the goal of fusion power, solicits proposals for such a computing center.

1973-06-28 10:08:24

Bids Open for $11 million of Computer, Networking Gear

The center issues a request for proposals for a large central computer and smaller systems at four labs, as well as networking equipment to connect the machines. The request is sent to 52 vendors and the budget is $11 million.

1973-11-01 10:08:24

LLNL Chosen as Site for New Center

After reviewing proposals from Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Oak Ridge national labs and New York University, the Controlled Thermonuclear Research Division of the Atomic Energy Commission names Lawrence Livermore as the site for a new unclassified computer center for studying fusion energy.

1974-03-04 10:08:24

John Killeen Named Center's First Director

Sid Fernbach, head of Computation at Lawrence Livermore, announces the new center will be led by John Killeen. Fernbach projects a staff of 30 to 40 members once the center is in full operation.

1974-07-05 10:08:24

CDC 6600 Provides Center's First Cycles

In July, the Controlled Thermonuclear Research Computer Center begins providing cycles using a Control Data Corp. 6600 computer (serial no. 1) known as the G-machine. Users at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL) access the machine via four acoustic modems (at 110 Baud or roughly 110 characters per second). The launch also helps center staff gain hands-on experience, including installation of software necessary for remote access.

1975-01-19 10:08:24

ERDA Created to Take Over from AEC

In January, the Energy Research and Development Administration comes into being, taking management of the energy research and development, nuclear weapons and naval reactors programs from the Atomic Energy Commission.

1975-03-15 10:08:24

Princeton Gets RJET, Direct Access

Remote access to the G-machine is upgraded to 16 dialup self-answering modems The RJET, or Remote Job Entry Terminal, is delivered to Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in February to allow direct connection to the center computer. The terminal, based on a PDP-8 minicomputer, could produce text or graphical data, and was also equipped with a card reader for data input. Access is by a leased line with a capability of 4,800 bits per second. Later, PDP-10 systems for remote log-ins to the center are installed at Oak Ridge, PPPL and Los Alamos.

1975-08-25 10:08:24

CDC 7600 Goes Online, Offers 36 Mflop/s

A Control Data Corp. 7600 supercomputer known as the A-machine is installed as the main system for the center. Acceptance testing begins in September. The A-machine, with a theoretical peak speed of 36 megaflops, is officially accepted in October, six weeks later than expected.

1975-10-15 10:08:24

General Atomics Joins Center Users

CTRCC staff and users begin switching to the new machine in October 1975. By mid-month, the switch becomes official, users are trained on the 7600 hardware and software, and a PDP-10 is installed at General Atomics in San Diego and at Livermore’s fusion research program.

1976-05-20 10:08:24

Access via 56Kbps Lines, MFE Beginnings

Access is provided via leased 56-kilobits-per-second lines and remote access terminals are added at UCLA and UC Berkeley. Users can move a file from the A-machine to the center’s PDP-10, where it can then be spooled to a Tektronix printer over one of four 1200 Baud lines, as well as transfer files between other sites. This is the beginning of the Magnetic Fusion Energy Network (MFEnet), which will eventually become the Energy Sciences Network, or ESnet.

NERSC: Powering Scientific Discovery Since 1974

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