A real cheap supercomputer
January 1998

Two environmental researchers, Forrest Hoffman and Bill Hargrove, of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, United States of America, made use of cheap and thrown away 486 micro-computers to build a supercomputer.

Making use of parallel computing, a massive number crunching exercise could be divided into smaller components to be processed by individual micro-computers. The results produced by the micro-computers would then be integrated and analyzed by a single central processor in one micro-computer.

Theoretically, this supercomputer, known as Stone Souper computer. can process 1.5 million floating point operations per second, or 1.5 MFLOPS. This speed is equivalent to one seventh of a powerful parallel computer. At the moment, researchers are using the Stone Souper computer to run a parallel algorithm useful in analyzing envrionmental information including a variety of soil characteristics data.

The Stone Souper computer is not only cheap, it can be continually updated and upgraded. For instance, the number of micro-computer connected can be increased and that the 486 micro-computers could eventually be replaced by the more powerful Pentium micro-computers. Up to 22 January, the number of micro-computers connected to form the Stone Souper computer has increased to 64.