Gee whiz • 7 November 2011 • The SnowBlog

Gee whiz

I know I do this occasionally, but I had another of those we're-living-in-the-future moments the other day. I was reading an article about micro-controllers because that's the sort of person I am. The article started with a reminiscence about the Cray 1 Supercomputer. Cray 1s still look like something out of science fiction. They built seats into it so that you could sit round the edge and it had a central column like the time rotor in the Tardis. In 1976 it was the world's first proper supercomputer. Its incredible processing capacity required vast amounts of electricity: 115 kilowatts (equivalent to fifty household electric heaters on full blast). In fact most of the computer was taken up by its liquid cooling system. Today you can get a chip that does the same job. It costs about five pounds and it consumes 1 watt. So you could run sixty of them on the same amount of electricity used by an old-fashioned light bulb. So can you think of anything you might need a supercomputer for, because chances are you own a couple.


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