Personal Supercomputers

Technology Review writes:

[Recently], Intel announced a research project that made geeks jump with glee: the first programmable “terascale” supercomputer on a chip. The company demonstrated a single chip with 80 cores, or processors, and showed that these cores could be programmed to crunch numbers at the rate of a trillion operations per second, a measure known as a teraflop. The chip is about the size of a large postage stamp, but it has the same calculation speed as a supercomputer that, in 1996, took up about 2,000 square feet and drew about 1,000 times more power.

This research chip is one of Intel’s first steps toward massively multicore technology, says Nitin Borkar, engineering manager and lab project head at Intel. The goal, he says, is to use this chip to test techniques that could make massively multicore technology faster, more energy efficient, and, most daunting, easy to program. These techniques will be “funneled into future products” that could appear, if all goes well, within five to ten years.

Researchers and visionaries are already thinking about how these supercomputer chips can best be used. Intel thinks that recognition, mining, and synthesis (RMS) applications will be key. Put together, these technologies could allow real-time language translation via cell phones, real-time video search by spoken phrase or image, and better recommendation systems for shopping, meal planning, and even health care.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.