February 12, 2004 1:34 PM PST

Garage sale-ing for a Mac supercomputer

Just a few months ago, Virginia Tech was using 1,100 high-end Macintoshes to enter the top of the supercomputer ranks. Now those same machines are being sold off as surplus goods.

That's because in January the university said it was upgrading its "Big Mac" supercomputer to use Apple Computer's rack-mounted Xserve. The system, also known as X, was built using the bulkier Power Mac G5, which was designed as a desktop computer, rather than as a supercomputing component.

At the time Virginia Tech was building its computer, Apple offered the G5 chip only as part of the Power Mac, while the Xserve sported older G4 processors. However, last month Apple announced a G5 version of Xserve, prompting Virginia Tech to upgrade its systems to the servers, which take up less space and consume less power than the Power Macs.

As a result, some of the machines that landed Big Mac at No. 3 in the list of Top 500 supercomputers, are now being sold by online and catalog retailer MacMall.

MacMall is touting the sale as an opportunity to "own a piece of history."

"With the change in digital guard, Virginia Tech has offered PC Mall a limited supply of original System X G5 models to be sold to the public," MacMall owner PC Mall said on its site.

The machines, which MacMall says have been refurbished by Apple, sell for $2,799 and feature dual 2GHz processors, 1GB of RAM, 160GB hard drives, and a SuperDrive that can burn both CDs and DVDs, as well as the latest edition of Mac OS X, version 10.3 Panther. A similarly equipped new Power Mac, with only 512MB of memory, sells for $2,999.


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