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Getting a big look at tiny particles

At the turn of the 20th century, scientists discovered that atoms were composed of smaller particles. They found that inside each atom, negatively charged electrons orbit a nucleus made of positively charged protons and neutral ...

Supercomputers help supercharge protein assembly

Red blood cells are amazing. They pick up oxygen from our lungs and carry it all over our body to keep us alive. The hemoglobin molecule in red blood cells transports oxygen by changing its shape in an all-or-nothing fashion. ...

Nvidia buys Israeli chipmaker Mellanox for $6.9 bn

US computer graphics giant Nvidia said Monday it is acquiring Israeli data center firm Mellanox for $6.9 billion, to expand its presence in the high performance computing segment.

Birth of massive black holes in the early universe revealed

The light released from around the first massive black holes in the universe is so intense that it is able to reach telescopes across the entire expanse of the universe. Incredibly, the light from the most distant black holes ...

A new way to see stress—using supercomputers

It's easy to take a lot for granted. Scientists do this when they study stress, the force per unit area on an object. Scientists handle stress mathematically by assuming it to have symmetry. That means the components of stress ...

An ice age lasting 115,000 years in two minutes

An international research team used a computer model to reconstruct the history of glaciation in the Alps, visualising it in a two-minute computer animation. The simulation aims to enable a better understanding of the mechanisms ...

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Supercomputer

A supercomputer is a computer that is at the frontline of current processing capacity, particularly speed of calculation. Supercomputers introduced in the 1960s were designed primarily by Seymour Cray at Control Data Corporation (CDC), and led the market into the 1970s until Cray left to form his own company, Cray Research. He then took over the supercomputer market with his new designs, holding the top spot in supercomputing for five years (1985–1990). In the 1980s a large number of smaller competitors entered the market, in parallel to the creation of the minicomputer market a decade earlier, but many of these disappeared in the mid-1990s "supercomputer market crash".

Today, supercomputers are typically one-of-a-kind custom designs produced by "traditional" companies such as Cray, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, who had purchased many of the 1980s companies to gain their experience. As of July 2009[update], the IBM Roadrunner, located at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is the fastest supercomputer in the world.

The term supercomputer itself is rather fluid, and today's supercomputer tends to become tomorrow's ordinary computer. CDC's early machines were simply very fast scalar processors, some ten times the speed of the fastest machines offered by other companies. In the 1970s most supercomputers were dedicated to running a vector processor, and many of the newer players developed their own such processors at a lower price to enter the market. The early and mid-1980s saw machines with a modest number of vector processors working in parallel to become the standard. Typical numbers of processors were in the range of four to sixteen. In the later 1980s and 1990s, attention turned from vector processors to massive parallel processing systems with thousands of "ordinary" CPUs, some being off the shelf units and others being custom designs. Today, parallel designs are based on "off the shelf" server-class microprocessors, such as the PowerPC, Opteron, or Xeon, and most modern supercomputers are now highly-tuned computer clusters using commodity processors combined with custom interconnects.

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