Supercomputers: 12.8 trillions ops for only $26m

Max More (
Mon, 22 Feb 1999 14:29:46 -0800

I don't vouch for the accuracy of the numbers here, and this is just part of the whole story at Techweb...


Brought to our attention by RCFoC reader Mark Lewis, this HAL, or more properly, HAL-4rW1 Hypercomputer, is said to perform 12.84 trillion operations per second. Now that's a nice number, but what does it really mean? That's 60,000 times faster than a 350-MHz PC. Looked at another way, HAL is to a PC as your PC is to a pocket calculator.

But we expect supercomputers to blow away our PCs. So, perhaps more interesting, Star Bridge says, is its HAL, composed of 280 FPGA chips from Xilinx, is 10 times faster than IBM's Blue Pacific supercomputer, which was called "the world's fastest computer" in October 1998. And the comparisons get even more interesting:

Power consumption: HAL -- 1,600 watts (it plugs into a standard 110-volt outlet like a toaster). Blue Pacific (BP) -- 3.9 megawatts. Space: HAL -- 3 square feet (it sits on a desktop).BP -- 8,000 square feet.
Length: HAL -- 27 inches. BP -- 228 yards. Power cable: HAL -- 1 standard extension cord. BP -- 5 miles of 6-inch circumference cable.
Oh, and the cost: HAL's little desktop box drops to a mere $26 million, compared with BP's $94 million.
A major difference between traditional computers and HAL is HAL's 100 billion circuits are eminently reprogrammable -- not by humans, but by itself and its software. A circuit configured to do one specific task one moment may be rewired on the fly, thousands of times per second, to optimize itself for the next task.

Max More, Ph.D.
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Implications of Advanced Technologies
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