World's Fastest Computer on the Fast Track

New machine will be three times as powerful as current champ
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2007 1:32 PM CDT
At Argonne National Laboratory, 25 miles outside Chicago, engineers are poised to create a machine more than triple the speed of the world's fastest computer.   (Wikimedia Commons)
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(Newser) – IBM is set to begin work on a computer capable of a quadrillion calculations per second, more power than a mile-high tower of laptops. McClatchy Newspapers reports the system will use 884,736 processors—six times the current best—to analyze problems on a dizzying scale. “We're on a path to a time when computers will be smarter than people,” one executive said.

The goal in a race involving IBM, Japanese and French outfits is the petaflop—one quadrillion (that is, 1,000 trillion) calculations per second. The Japanese predict their computer will hit the 10-petaflop mark by 2012, outpacing IBM’s projection of 2017. But programmers aren’t sure how to harness the machines; they're inspired by video games, whose coding handles many simultaneous calculations.