Blue Waters Supercomputer – Champaign, Illinois - Atlas Obscura
Unusual adventures and hidden discoveries. Explore our 2018 trips now »

Champaign, Illinois

Blue Waters Supercomputer

One of the most powerful computers in the world can be visited by anyone who wants to experience more computing than they can handle. 

Push up your glasses and straighten your pocket protectors because the massive supercomputer known as Blue Waters at the National Petascale Computing Facility on the University of Illinois campus can be freely visited by anyone who is more interested in computing power than horsepower.  

First fired up in 2013, Blue Waters is a sustained petascale Cray supercomputer that is not just the fastest computer on a university campus, but one of the most powerful in the world. Led by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and built from the latest technologies, Blue Waters uses hundreds of thousands of computational cores across 300 tall black cabinets to achieve a terrifically silly peak performance of 13.34 petaflops, which in real-terms translates into more than 13 quadrillion calculations per second.

While one might expect such a powerful device to be held in some ultra-secure top-secret government building, it’s actually available for the public to see firsthand. Anyone wanting to get an up-close look at the rows of number-crunching monoliths can call and set up a tour. Tours are free and by request, lasting around 30 minutes.