You may not have heard of ASCI Red but for nearly nine years it was one of the world’s fastest supercomputers and the first one to break the Teraflop barrier (one trillion operations per second) back in December 1996. At its peak it was running at 3.1 terraflops but now it has been retired from duty at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) laboratory in Albuquerque New Mexico.
Built by Intel and running 10,000 processors it wasn’t much to look at, just a row of anonymous grey cabinets but did the job it was designed for — running mind-bogglingly complicated calculations and simulations and it proved to be very reliable.
But there’s a couple of new kids on the block and the recently comissioned Red Storm and Thunderbird computers next door to Asci Red trundle along at a respectable 40 and 60 teraflops respectively. For the record the first teraflop PC isn’t expected until 2010, though Playstation 3 can run at up to 2 teraflops but the really interesting milestone will be 100 teraflops, which is reckoned to be the starting point for computers able to support human like levels of artifical intelligence.