Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Usain Bolt of Computers

Anyone who watched the 2008 Summer Olympics is surely familiar with the achievements of Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprinter set a world record for the 100 m sprint and is the current World and Olympic champion in the 100 m, the 200 m and the 4 x 100 m relay. Bolt ran his races almost as if he was in an event by himself, dusting his competition and leaving the other runners essentially in a scrap for second place.

Reports emerged today that computer designers in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin are on the verge of unveiling a new supercomputer that like Bolt, will be the fastest on Earth. That computer, the Tianhe-1, utilizes chips that were manufactured in the U.S. which is also home to what is currently considered the fastest computer on Earth.

With a sustained computing speed of 2,507 trillion calculations per second, the Tianhe-1 is 1.4 times faster than the current title holder which is housed in a national laboratory in Tennessee. In the words of Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist who monitors the official rankings for supercomputers, the Tianhe-1, "blows away the existing number one machine."

However, as in sports, computing records are made to be broken. Just as Bolt shattered previously existing records, newer and faster computers are coming along every year. Steven J. Wallach, a computer designer, likened the Tianhe-1 to the four-minute mile, saying "The world didn't stop. This is just a snapshot in time."

As a matter of fact the Tianhe-1, which hasn't even officially been crowned the fastest on Earth, already has competition. Computer designers in Japan are currently developing a machine called the K Computer in an effort to claim the title for Japan. So just how long the Tianhe-1 will reign is anybody's guess.

Usain Bolt on the other hand is just 24 which means he will be 26 at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. So when it comes to setting new records or holding on to existing ones, I'd put my money on the Jamaican.

No comments:

Post a Comment