Someone had linked to a 1/10th scale Cray-1 super computer, so I googled that, found out that the Cray-2 held the computing record for 10 whole years before being upsurped by the ETA10 a year later in 1989.
So what was the peak of computing in 1989 capable of? 10 GFLOPS. But computing moved by leaps and bounds in the mid-90s, right? So a Pentium 2 should have eclipsed the Cray 2 in 1997. In theory. Well it turns out we only recently broke the 10 GFLOP barrier in home computers that people actually buy (not talking high-end workstations/gaming computers). The Core Solo (in the very first Macbooks) barely pushed 2 GFLOPS. My Core 2 Duo pushes about 20 GFLOPS, and a more modern Intel i7 950 will push just north of 55 GFLOPS according to Intel’s website. They were designing 30 GFLOPS computers by 1990, so 2010 consumer technology is just now catching up with 20 year old state of the art commercial technology. Of course, we’re comparing a room sized set of vector CPUs against a single general purpose physical processing unit with multiple cores, but there is still a valid comparison to be made.
The ETA10 10GFLOPS supercomputer, circa 1990 vs Intel Core 2 Duo 10GFLOPS consumer processor, circa 2007. Pretty wild.