The John von Neumann Supercomputing Center at Princeton University may be paying a devastating price for its alliance with a floundering computer giant.

Last month the four-year-old center was rocked by the announcement thai its sole supercomputer supplier, ETA Systems Inc., had been shut down abruptly by its parent company, Control Data Corp. (CDC). That decision, made after the six year-old supercomputer subsidiary lost more than $100 million last year, means the center will get no further hardware upgrades and only minimal software support from CDC in the future.

The news couldn’t have come at a worse time for the von Neumann center, which is run by a consortium of 13 research universities, has a user base currently numbering more than 1,300 university and industrial scientists, and serves as the hub of a recently completed high-performance regional network. This month the National Science Foundation, which provides a total of $54...

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