I am trying to understand the trade-offs between scalar and vector machines, the threshold of complexity/transistor count/performance at which vector machines started to make sense.
As data points, the Cray-1 was a vector machine, but the earlier CDC 6600 was not, and as far as I can tell, the CDC 7600 was not either.
So, defining a vector supercomputer as a machine on which you can add or multiply two vectors of floating-point numbers with a single instruction, and stipulating that each vector must be at least as large as two double precision numbers,
What was the first vector supercomputer?
There are two computers meeting your definition: the CDC STAR 100 and the TI ASC, available in 1974. Both of these are memory-based vector computers, capable of issuing vector operations on data stored in memory, and storing the results in memory. The STAR could operate on vectors of up to 65,535 elements. Both systems could operate on double-precision floating-point numbers.
The first register-based vector supercomputer was the Cray 1, which also introduced chained operations; both of these improvements were largely a result of the difficulties encountered on the STAR and ASC — it was very difficult to reach anything like the nominal performance on both systems.
Correct answer by Stephen Kitt on December 27, 2020
Another candidate, designed from 1972, prototype building started in 1974 was the ICL Distributed Array Processor (DAP) with a 64 * 64 bit SIMD architecture. First was shipped in 1979, (or perhaps 1978) and Edinburgh University had one around the same time (1980ish).
As I understand it, its 4096 Processing Elements (PEs) were 1-bit each, arranged as a 64x64 2-D array, so it could emulate 64 vectors each of 64 bits.
It was operated as a coprocessor to the ICL2900-series mainframes.
Answered by Brian Drummond on December 27, 2020
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