September 8, 2000 6:20 PM PDT

eBay-ed supercomputer may be put out to pasture

A used supercomputer may have found a new home--out on a ranch.

Technology entrepreneur Steve Blank, who founded Ardent Computers and Epiphany and owns a 260-acre ranch on the Northern California coast, today won a Cray Research Y-MP C90 supercomputer on eBay with a bid of $45,100.70.

The computer was offered by the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, which put the C90 up for auction to make room for a new supercomputer.

"I'm ecstatic," Blank said. "In 50 years, people are just going to go, 'That was the pinnacle of military computing. These machines are going to be as important as the first PC or the first minicomputer.'"

Although the C90 that Blank bought was used for nonmilitary purposes at the supercomputing center, the military used similar machines to design and develop nuclear weapons.

Blank said he has not decided what he is going to do with the machine, but one idea he has is to set it up on his ranch, "next to the tractors."

"It could be the only ranch on the coast with a supercomputer," he said.

Regardless of where the machine ends up, Blank said he plans to keep it in working condition. He said he was arranging with Cray and the supercomputing center to ship the machine in a climate-controlled environment.

Michael Schneider, a science writer at the supercomputing center, said the center was "pleased" with the auction result.

Before the auction, the center was planning on paying Cray $30,000 to haul the computer away. Instead, as part of the auction, Blank will pick up the tab on the packing and shipping for the C90.

"We didn't know what would happen," Schneider said. "We're basically about $75,000 ahead of where would have been if we hadn't done the eBay thing."


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