If you're intrigued with this topic you should read The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray
Saturday, April 20, 2002
Japanese Computer Is World's Fastest, as U.S. Falls Back "The NEC supercomputers are based on vector processing, a way of using specialized hardware to solve complex calculations that was pioneered by the American supercomputer designer Seymour Cray. The concept has generally fallen out of favor in the United States in recent years... Assembled from 640 specialized nodes that are in turn composed of 5,104 processors made by NEC, the new Japanese supercomputer occupies the space of four tennis courts and has achieved a computing speed of 35.6 trillion mathematical operations a second. The processors are linked in a way that allows extremely efficient operation compared with the previously fastest "massively parallel" computers, which are based on standard parts rather than custom-made chips."