Were the IBM 700/7000 series (1953-1964) not mainframes? I would say they were.
And what about other vendors pre-1964 machines, e.g. UNIVACs. Were they not mainframes too?
> you need to determine what the super-computer differs from the mainframe and which is faster
I'm not convinced that "mainframe" and "supercomputer" are necessarily mutually exclusive categories. What about the IBM 7030 Stretch? Doesn't it belong to both?
There have been supercomputers with an S/360-descended architecture. For example, the Fujitsu FACOM VP and VP2200 series, the Hitachi HITAC S-810. Such machines were both supercomputers and IBM-compatible mainframes, and could run variants of MVS.
A race car is often uncomfortable and hard to drive. You need to be physically fit to drive it. Supercomputers are the race cars of computers. You need to do crazy tricks to extract their maximum theoretical performance. Mainframes, however, are more suitable to run common tasks, are easier to drive and generally more reliable. A mainframe like a 360/195 would be somewhat like a BMW M-series. Its performance is impressive, but you don't need to practice your whole life not to kill yourself in one.
For example, look at the 1st Top 500 List, from June 1993. In position 36, was the Hitachi S-3800/480 at the University of Tokyo . The S-3800/480 was an S/370-compatible machine with vector processing extensions. It supported two operating systems, OSF/1 Unix and also VOS3, which is a fork of IBM MVS . Arguably, if a machine is S/370-compatible and runs a derivative of IBM MVS, it is an IBM-compatible mainframe. Yet, also, it was a supercomputer. It could run the same business and scientific software as any other IBM-compatible mainframe. But scientific code can take advantage of the special vector processing instructions (either through assembly or through the Fortran compiler.)
This was probably the very tail end of this category of machines, IBM(-compatible) mainframe supercomputers. But if you go back to the 1980s and earlier, it was actually a quite common category, with instances being supplied by IBM, Amdahl, Fujitsu and Hitachi. (Unfortunately, the Top500 list only goes back to 1993, so it omits most of this history.)
IBM also had the Vector Facility for its 3090 series. I'd still say these are the M-series (or the post-Audi Lamborghinis) of computers - fast, but they don't require you to sacrifice comfort for speed.
I wish I was able to locate a Thinking Machines CM-5 before they were all destroyed. Even the front indicator panel would have been nice.
I’ve created my own smaller version with an Arduino and some LED panels but its not the same.
On my tests running ffmpeg, however, the results would be disappointing: all LEDs light up at the same time...
-produced the world's first commercially available gallium arsenide supercomputer, the Convex C3
-owned the minisupercomputer market from ~1986 through its end in 1995
-built the first commercially successful flat address space, cache coherent massively parallel processor the SPP1000 series in '94
-hired Tom Christiansen and shipped with Perl pre-installed
-employed Robert Morris (a co-founder of Y Combinator) as a summer intern
What for? I can imagine some tasks for such a machine in the middle of XX century, but not for thousands of them.
It may be noted that the IBM 1401 was introduced in 1959 to replace hardwired punched card appliances, especially after these were heavily challenged by the Bull Gamma 3. The lower range IBM S/360 were replacing the 1401 in turn. The S/360 family was eventually replaced by its direct successor, the IBM system/370.
That said, IBM did maintain some real super computing projects around this time, namely project X and project Y (resulting in the ACS project). Project X eventually became the top of the range S/360 Model 92, project Y (ACS-1) was especially important for its legacy in cache architecture and software optimization (optimizing compilers, etc.)
Edit: Project X was actually sold under the designations S/360 Model 91, Model 95 and Model 195. (Introduced in 1969, these were more an add-on to the family, which had been introduced in 1965 and was already approaching the end of its retail cycle.) About 3 dozen of these actual super computers were built in total.
In contrast, the 3033 operator console was just sort of a glorified terminal.
I thought the Quiesce feature was so cool -- you could freeze all programs and OS activity in place, then disconnect and work on any devices or peripherals at will, then resume.
In a mere 2-year span, I got to run 370s, 3033s, 308x (including the 4-processor 3084), and 309x not long after I left operations for programming.
I recall on our PDP 11/40 if the separate module that handled the boot failed, you had to toggle the boot loader in by hand using OCD (octal coded decimal) which was a pain.
Those massive tapes had downright abysmal storage capacities by today's standards.
And binkenlights vanished when ICs could switch so fast that the human eye would just see a steady light (much like we can't see a fluorescent lamp blinking).
Instead the machines had a single step mode where you could force the computer to execute one instruction at a time. Or you could pause the machine completely and manually poke bits into memory yourself.
The real death of the front panel was when machines got their own bootloaders and could load their operating system without the operator manually injecting instructions on how to read from external storage directly into memory. This actually happened much later than you might appreciate. This combined with software based debuggers which could be more powerful.
The transition is probably well illustrated by the Datapoint 2200 smart terminal (which famously provided the blueprint for the Intel 8008): An early illustration shows the machine with a DEC mini style row of console switches , but when it was announced in 1970, the toggle switches were gone. Ironically, the early 8-bit micros which sprang off from the DP 2200 were probably amongst the last machines to come with toggle switches and console lights (again, because of the lack of built-in diagnostic facilities).
 Concept illustration of the Datapoint 2200 (John Frassanito, 1969) – arguably, console switches were just what you expected from a "self-respecting" computer at the time, but, by the time the design had progressed from concept to actual hardware, these just didn't make any sense anymore: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-2urGdLzMYf8/VnY76lBDUlI/AAAAAAAANS...
(From http://bugbookmuseum.blogspot.co.at/2016/01/datapoint-2200-8... – Mind that Datapoint is then still CTC and the terminal is marked "Veripoint 2200" in the concept illustration.)
So to expand on mainframes in particular, which are less well documented/understood by my generation:
The IBM mainframe continued being primarily a business computer but they often had enhanced capability models like the 3090 with optional vector facilities that put them in competition with dedicated supercomputers.
Few people that came into computing in the 1990s and thereafter realize that a lot of what we might assume to be "modern" capabilities existed since the 1970s, via these machines. The machines gave companies inter-office memos (email), document preparation (word) and document/image storage (like modern dropbox, gdrive etc), OLTP (like later RDBMS oracle etc), OLAP (like modern hadoop, terradata etc), custom applications and hardware for all kinds of line of business activities like automated logistics via bar code systems, point of sales cash registers and bar code scanners, ATMs, complex billing generators printers that could customize/cut/collate bills and notices, bill processors with check printers/OCR scanners, phone switchboard integration for call routing and auto-attendant etc.
VTAM and SNA allowed the machines to communicate, and intercommunicate with machines of other companies across the globe. Time sharing services were offered for smaller companies in a way not dissimilar to modern "cloud computing". International networks existed to interchange data between different computer types like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tymnet.
The machines were also critical to the design and engineering of large construction, manufacturing, PLM, and simulation. Aircraft, ship building, power plant design, space exploration, automotive, circuit board and VLSI chip design/layout/EDA.. all that was primarily done on these machines up until the early '90s when UNIX workstations took over. CADAM, CATIA etc lots of good history covered on http://mbinfo.mbdesign.net/CAD-History.htm.
It's actually kind of astounding how much these did and how quickly it was washed out of common knowledge. If you had a white collar job in the '70s-early '90s you probably directly and indirectly spent a lot of time on these machines. 3270 terminals and later PCs with 3270 emulation.
Today, the mainframe is still integral to the running of Western civilization, although they are almost exclusively back office transaction processing and batch reporting systems.