Space Wars: The CRAY-2 Supercomputer vs. the iPhone 12

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Our personal phones have gotten bigger lately, to the point that there are folding models to give us maximum screen space. But for their size, they’re marvels when it comes to how much computing power they have. Adobe decided to reverse engineer the idea(Opens in a new window) that a modern smartphone would’ve been able put a man on the Moon in 1969 to see how much square footage a supercomputer from the 80s would need to do what an iPhone 12 can do now. 

The CRAY-2 was a behemoth even in its day (1985), at 5,500 pounds and taking up 16 square feet. The iPhone 12, on the other hand weighs 5.78 ounces and occupies just 1.6 square inches. While the CRAY-2 was busy doing nuclear research and working on oceanographic development for the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, the iPhone is probably most used for texting and scrolling through social media.

But like the smartest kid you went to school with who spent all their time gaming, it has the potential to do so much more. The CRAY-2 operated at 1.9 billion FLOPS (floating-point operations per second)—while the iPhone 12 operates at 11 trillion FLOPS. 

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Adobe did the math to figure out just how big the CRAY-2 would have to be to have the same processing speed as the iPhone 12. The answer: It would have to weigh 13,750 tons and take up 80,000 square feet. Adobe said this theoretical CRAY-2 would represent a large office building on two acres of land, but we wanted to make things a bit more concrete—so here are some 80,000-square-foot spaces to bring the idea home:

The outside of the Medieval Times in Scottsdale with the parking lot in the foreground

Credit: Medieval Times

PCMag Logo An Apple-1 computer sold for $500,000 at auction. Here’s a look inside.

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