(j3.2006) illusive exaflops

Jerry Wagener jerry
Mon Feb 21 17:47:11 EST 2011

To the Fortran standards community -

After reading the supercomputer article in the latest issue of IEEE Spectrum (http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/hardware/nextgeneration-supercomputers), I couldn't resist sending a sort of historical "wow" to y'all. 

The article deals with the the kinds of computers (as many flops as possible) used for Fortran's world of scientific computations, and so I suppose it's gist is old hat in this community. But as an old geezer, retired from the Fortran wars for over a decade, I found it most intriguing.

In the 80's for instance, for most of the decade we tracked the fastest computers in megaflops, and it was big news when the first gigaflops computer appeared. As I recall in the late 90's we were anticipating the amazing advent of the first teraflops computer. And now, according to the article, the fastest computer is about 5 petaflops. So for the past 3 decades we've roughly, on-average, doubled the top computing speed each year (10**6 to 10**15). That's even faster than Moore's Law. Amazing.

But, alas, the article points out that some tough physical limits are raising their ugly heads which look like this era may be coming to an end, and with it DARPA's hopes for an exaflops computer by 2015 may not be realized. Though I'm reminded of the saying that somebody saying something's impossible is usually interrupted by somebody doing it. Anyway, for an old out-of-touch Fortran geezer it was an interesting read.

Best wishes to all.    -Jerry
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