It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s this week’s quiz on supercomputers!
With Superman hitting the movie screens, let’s take a look at computers that are faster than a speeding bullet. Hang onto your capes – here comes our supercomputer quiz!
No doubt about it, these are the superheroes of the computing world. They take on the forces of the weather and probe the ultimate questions of the universe as well as the microscopic details of your genes, solving problems that would be beyond your puny mental powers. No need to thank them, though – they are only doing their job!
Supercomputers hit the big time in the 1960s, when their comic-book alter egos were in their prime. IBM, CDC and Cray Research started a race to see who could make the fastest systems, tuned to the needs of the scientific market. Those early machines had specialised processors and used special liquid coolant – which bubbled when they had some special tricky problems to to solve.
New techniques came along, like vector processing, and by the 1990s it was clear that parallel processing was the order of the day: splitting problems up so hundreds, or even thousands, of processors could attack them.
This century brought a surprise. Graphics chips tailored for gamers offered very fast processing of a kind that could easily be put to work in the science labs, so all leading supercomputers are now constructed using thousands of ordinary processors coupled with GPU co-processors.
From a MegaFlop (a million floating point operations per second) in the 60s, supercomputers have reached teraflops – or one billion times faster.
Sometimes superheroes must have wished they could be as cool as the computers (and we found Superman turning into a supercomputer on Comicvine).
Ready to match your wits against our supercomputer knowledge?
And if you think, it was good, try some others.