What’s the size of a postage stamp but can crunch numbers as well as a room full of computers? That would be the newest research project from Intel, a terascale supercomputer on one 80-core chip. The supercomputer that used to take up 2,000 square feet now fits on the corner of an average postal envelope.
We heard about this megaprocessor teraflop chip last fall. It’s the first step in Intel’s strategy to fuse future technology and parallel programming skills to create multicore superchips.
The company envisions a handful of handy applications for such multicore chips, such as using mobile phones to achieve real-time language translation and handhelds to perform real-time video search.
Of course, the word in there from a programming perspective is parallel. Programmers haven’t done a whole lot of that lately because they haven’t had to. The preponderance of cores in this new superchip, however, will force their hands.
And it’s not like 80 is even the top-level chip. NVIDIA has brought to the market a chip with 128 cores, a multiprocessor that plows through millions of graphics operations during the length of an average video game.
It’s all part of the same goal: to keep pushing the limits and increasing the capabilities of chips, processors, and programmers. Someday soon, mobile phones, laptops, PDAs, and handhelds will be able to crunch so many calculations in so few blinks of the eye that they will astound even their creators.