Their first machine was the C1, released in 1985. The C1 was very similar to the Cray-1 in general design, but used a slower, less expensive CMOS memory and main CPU. They offset this by increasing the capabilities of the vector units, including 128 64-bit registers. It also used virtual memory as opposed to the static memory system of the Cray machines, which improved programming. It was generally rated at 20 MFLOP/s peak for double precision (64 bits), and 40 MFLOP/s peak for single precision (32 bits), about 1/5th the normal speed of the Cray-1. They also invested heavily in advanced automatic vectorizing compilers in order to gain performance when existing programs were ported to their systems. The machines ran a BSD version of Unix known initially as Convex Unix then later as ConvexOS due to trademark/licensing issues. ConvexOS has DEC VMS compatibility features as well as Cray Fortran features. Their Fortran compiler went on to be licensed to other computers such as the Ardent and Stellar (and merged Stardent).
The C2 was a crossbar-interconnected multiprocessor version of the C1, with up to 4 CPUs, released in 1988. It used newer Emitter Coupled Logic chips for a boost in clock speed from 10 MHz to 25 MHz, and rated at 50 MFLOPS peak for double precision per CPU (100 MFLOPS peak for single precision). It was Convex's most successful product.
The C2 was followed by the C3 in 1991, being essentially similar to the C2 but with a faster clock and support for up to 8 CPUs implemented with low density GaAs FPGAs. Various configurations of the C3 were offered, with between 50 to 240 MFLOPS per CPU. However, the C3 and the Convex business model were overtaken by changes in the computer industry. The arrival of RISC Microprocessors meant that it was no longer possible to develop cost-effective high performance computing as a standalone small low-volume company. While the C3 was delivered late, which resulted in lost sales, it was still not going to be able to compete with commodity high-performance computing in the long run.
Another speed boost was planned in the C4, which moved the hardware implementation to GaAs-based chips, following an evolution identical to that of the Cray machines, but the effort was too little, too late. Some considered the whole C4 program to be nothing more than chasing a business in decline. By this time, even though Convex was the first vendor to ship a GaAs based product, they were losing money.
In 1994, Convex introduced an entirely new design, known as the Exemplar. Unlike the C-series vector computer, the Exemplar was a parallel-computing machine based on off-the-shelf HP-PA RISC chips, connected together using SCI. First dubbed MPP, these machines were later called SPP and Exemplar and sold under the SPP-1600 moniker. The expectation was that a software programing model for parallel computing could draw in customers. But the type of customers Convex attracted believed in Fortran and brute force rather than sophisticated technology. The Operating System also had terrible performance problems which could not easily be fixed. Eventually, Convex established a working partnership with HP's hardware and software divisions. Initially it was intended that the Exemplar would be binary-compatible with HP's HPUX. But eventually it was decided to port HPUX to the platform and sell the platform as standalone servers.
In 1995, Hewlett-Packard bought Convex. HP sold Convex Exemplar machines under the S-Class (MP) and X-Class (CC-NUMA) titles, and later incorporated some of Exemplar's technology into the V-Class machine, which was released running the HPUX 11.0 release instead of the SPP-UX version which was sold with the S- and X-Class products.
Bob Paluck strived to maintain an atmosphere that promoted dedication and hard work, but also emphasized fun and creativity.
Convex had an unusually thorough interview process, which, for technical positions, included a grilling by a group of engineers. This was intended to ensure that only the best got to work there. The extensive interview process carried over to other departments as well, where the key people who would be working with the prospective employee each interviewed the candidate, then met in roundtable to discuss whether or not to hire.
This resulted in a very dedicated relatively young employee base who spent most of their waking hours ensuring Convex's success.
The culture was one of creativity. Especially in the first few years, new hires were brought in and given much creative license. New ideas were encouraged and the management generally succeeded in generating an atmosphere where employees considered themselves a vital part of the team.
Banners hung throughout the building, extolling such slogans as "What have you done for the customer today?"
Convex lasted longer than most minisupercomputer companies, and to celebrate this, Convex had a graveyard of former competitor companies on its property.
Ex-employees of Convex jokingly refer to themselves as ex-cons. There is a mailing list of Convex ex-employees, as well as frequent reunions.
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