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.