Computers: A Sleek, Superpowered Machine

The world's fastest model will make short work of vexing problems

With its black frame, red Naugahyde base and transparent plastic panels, it looks like a cross between a recreation-room bar and an aquarium. Its blue- tinted towers, washed by 200 gallons of liquid coolant, bubble and shimmer / like over-heated Lava Lites. Its nickname is "Bubbles," and it bears little resemblance to the computers that most Americans have seen. But the $17.6 million Cray-2 is a computer -- a supercomputer at that -- and it is the fastest one in operation today.

Last week in a brightly lit room at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., the first production model...

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