Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Supercomputing's New Idea Is Old One

Supercomputing's New Idea Is Old One "After a period of neglect, the intellectual legacy of Seymour Cray, the father of the modern supercomputer, is being revived.
The scientists in government, industry and academia who are engaged in the race to build the world's fastest computing machines are now turning their attention once again to Mr. Cray's elegant approach to building ultra-fast computers.
When Mr. Cray died after a car accident in 1996, the one-of-a-kind machines that embodied his computing philosophy had gone out of fashion, largely replaced by designs based on thousands of connected microprocessors that are inexpensive and mass produced.
Mr. Cray's custom machines are known as vector supercomputers and have special hardware that is intended to handle the long strings of numbers in complex scientific computing problems. The machines are highly regarded for a design that balanced computing speed and the ability to transfer data extremely rapidly within the computer while the calculation is taking place.
This design philosophy is being revitalized by Burton J. Smith, a founder and the chief scientist of the Seattle-based Tera, which bought the original Cray Research in 2000. In the three years since the acquisition, Mr. Smith has been seen in the industry as the most prominent champion of Mr. Cray's approach."

The Supermen : The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards Behind the Supercomputer
is a must-read in this context.

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