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September 1999

So long to our Cray technicians

Jim Martinez. (Photo by Bob Henson)

SCD's computing transition is bringing an end to lengthy assignments for several employees of SGI/Cray. Since 1984, Jim Martinez has served as on-site maintenance representative for SCD's Cray machines, keeping an office in the ML basement. Although his paycheck came from Cray, Jim has had the full-time presence of an NCAR staffer.

Two other representatives, Dan Honstein and Cris Hannu, are also well known around SCD. Both of them have served NCAR regularly since the early 1980s. (Tom Engel, head of SCD's High Performance Systems Section, was also on site frequently as an employee of Cray Research from 1982 through 1989 and of spinoff competitor Cray Computer Corporation from 1989 to 1995 before joining the NCAR staff in 1996.)

One of the main jobs for the Cray group at NCAR has been weekly and monthly bouts of preventive maintenance for the SCD machines--the cyber-equivalent of changing a car's oil every three months. For example, the CRAY C90 is shut down from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. once a month, allowing the technicians to run diagnostic tests. "It's just to ensure that problems that occurred in the prior month are corrected," Jim says.

Beginning in the new fiscal year (1 October), NCAR's arrangement with SGI/Cray will switch to an on-call basis. SCD will dial a 1-800 number and SGI/Cray will dispatch an engineer. She or he will arrive in a time span ranging from two hours to one day, depending upon the computer. The technician might be one of our already familiar faces from SGI/Cray. "We only have three individuals in the Denver office currently trained on the equipment that's up here," says Jim.

With changes afoot in SGI/Cray, Jim is unsure whether he will remain in the Denver office or be transferred elsewhere. He's stoic, though. "We've been through enough of these changes that we've found it's no use getting your feathers ruffled until you know what's going on." Jim worked for Control Data Corporation (provider of NCAR's first major computers) briefly in California before NCAR switched from CDC to Cray for its major machines. "In this industry, things change," Jim notes, adding, "We have a lot of friends up here that we've socialized with and worked with."

Dan adds, "I have a lot of good memories of my days spent at NCAR and I have made some good friendships while I was here. This has been a beautiful place to work and I will miss coming up here, but it appears it's time to make a change." •BH

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
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