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"Summit" - The World's Fastest Supercomputer, and Proof That Dinosaurs Still Roam the Earth


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Most people don't know this (why would they?), but I'm probably one of the youngest people on Earth to have an MS in Computer Science, never having had used a "personal computer" for the duration of my degree.

Yep, I got my MS in 1984, and never once - not one single time - laid eyes on a computer. We worked on "terminals" - CRTs - that were connected to the IBM Mainframe who-knows-where.

Only in 1985, when I got a job, did I have my first encounter with a desktop computer. They were as foreign to me as CDs, erm, never mind.

Anyway, back then, I took a fascination to the Cray-1 - the world's fastest supercomputer at the time (pretty much). I remember reading about it in the Guinness Book of World Records - it was invented in 1975, and a total of 80 units were sold.

The Cray-1 had a processing speed of 160 MFLOPS (or Mega-FLOPS, or Millions of Floating-Point Operations per Second). In 1982, they actually came out with a Cray-X-MP, which operated at 800 MFLOPS - five-times the processing speed - but I didn't even really pay attention to this; it was always the Cray-1 that captured my imagination. (Knowing what a floating-point instruction is isn't important; just picture assigning a value of 1 to X - while not entirely accurate, that's close enough.)

Fast-forward to Jun 8, 2018:

"5 Ways the World's Fastest Supercomputer Could Change the World" by Edd Gent on nbcnews.com

This article is about the "Summit" - the "new" version of the Cray-1. The Summit operates at 200 PFLOPS (or Peta-FLOPS, or Quadrillions of Floating-Point Operations per Second). I'll spare you the math, but the Summit is ONE BILLION times faster than the Cray-1 was!

To put that in perspective, what the Summit can do in 1 second, would have taken the Cray-1 almost 32 years.

If the Cray-1 had started working on a problem shortly after I got my MS in Computer Science in 1984, and finished it 2-3 years ago - Summit could have started and finished the same problem when you were halfway through reading this sentence.

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