The age of exascale and the future of supercomputing

In 1949, physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) newly minted Argonne National Laboratory ordered the construction of the Argonne Version of the Institute’s Digital Automatic Computer, or AVIDAC. A modified version of the first electronic computer built at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, it was intended to help solve complex problems in the design of nuclear reactors.

With a floor area of 500 square feet and power consumption of 20 kilowatts, AVIDAC boasted remarkable computing power for the time. It possessed a memory of 1,024 words (about 5.1 kilobytes in total), could perform 1,000 multiplications per second, and had a programming capability that allowed it to solve problems consistently and accurately.

Today, your smart phone can store around 100 million times more data, and can do in a single second what would have taken AVIDAC two months.

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