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May 7 2010   5:59PM GMT

A teraflop isn’t what it used to be

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Writing today about desktop supercomputers and looking back to the systems of the last century, when a teraflop used to be fast.

Desktop supercomputers don’t approach the speeds of high-performance systems — even the least powerful supercomputer in the Top 500 list is many times faster than any desktop supercomputer.

The first supercomputer capable of teraflop performance (able to perform a trillion floating point operations per second) was the Cray T3E-1200E, in 1998. It took desktop supercomputers about a decade longer to attain that speed. However, teraflop systems of the late 1990s couldn’t quite fit on a desktop — they had a footprint the size of a room.

Anyway, now high-performance supercomputers have broken the petaflop barrier. And people are talking about mobile phone supercomputing. Yup, we’re living in the future.

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