Hello readers. Welcome to another year of my Newsletters where I will continue to give you information on the latest technology trends plus some insight on future trends. My hope is that this information useful to you. This installment will discuss the supercomputer.

The definition of a supercomputer is a computer and its components that are used to achieve massive computing power. Today’s supercomputer consists of tens of thousands of processors that are able to perform billions and trillions of calculations or computations per second.

Supercomputers have been used for complex, mathematically intensive scientific problems, including simulating nuclear missile tests, forecasting the weather, simulating the climate for decades.  In theory, a general-purpose supercomputer can be used for anything.

While some supercomputers are general-purpose machines that can be used for a variety of different scientific problems, some are engineered for very specific jobs.  Two of the most famous supercomputers of recent times were engineered this way.  IBM’s Deep Blue machine from 1997 was built specifically to play chess against grand chess master Gary Kasparov while it’s later Watson was engineered to play the game Jeopardy!

The idea of a supercomputer first arose in the 1960’s when an electrical engineer named Seymour Cray embarked on creating the world’s fastest computer. Cray is considered the “father of supercomputing”.  In 1964, Seymour Cray introduced the CDC 6600; it ran at clock speed on 40MHz, executing around three million floating-point operations per second, which made it the fastest computer in the world.

In 1972 Cray formed his own company and introduced the Cray-1 which ran at a clock speed of 80MHz and performed 136 million floating-point operations per second. The Cray 1 was installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1976.

The Cray-2 was a four-processor ECL vector supercomputer made by Cray Research starting in 1985. It was the fastest machine in the world. The Cray-2 was predominantly developed for the United States Departments of Defense and Energy. Uses tended to be for nuclear weapons research or oceanographic (sonar) development. However, the Cray-2 also found its way into civil agencies (such as NASA Ames Research Center), universities, and corporations worldwide. The Cray-2 would have been superseded by the Cray-3, but due to development problems only a single Cray-3 was built and it was never paid for.

In the 1990’s NEC Corporation announced their version of a supercomputer that would give the Cray supercomputers some competition. The main difference between them was that NEC’s model was a using a more advanced architecture which was becoming more prevalent for building and configuration of newer modern computers. Fujitsu also entered the supercomputer market and by 1994 it earned the top spot for the best supercomputer on the market.  Other companies like Hitachi, IBM, and Intel started to develop their own version of a supercomputer making the supercomputer market saturated. 

Supercomputers today are being used in a variety of industries like:

  • Automotive – Supercomputers are used to simulate crash and safety tests to see if the metal needs improvement in addition to designing and shaping the vehicle to have excellent aerodynamics.
  • Aviation – On the same level as the automotive.  Designing and simulating aircraft engines that will help reduce flutter and add fuel efficiency.
  • Biomedical – Supercomputers are used to design and simulate chemical reactions.  Molecular modeling for all sorts of chemical reactor designs.
  • Energy/Nuclear – Using a supercomputer would have an impact in energy research, scientific discovery, economic competitiveness, and national security. 
  • Weather Applications – Supercomputers are used to produce weather forecasts from many different spots in the world.
  • Pharmaceuticals – Supercomputers are used to simulate interaction between complex surfaces and chemical structures for research and development processes before trialing new medicines.
  • Financial – Supercomputers are used to do real-time data analysis and stock trading.

The top 10 supercomputers used today are

  • Summitt – Used at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for research in energy, scientific discovery, and national security.
  • TaihuLight- Located in China for research in Oil and Energy.
  • Sierra – The Sierra is currently being used for scientific work, such as predicting the effects of cancer and mapping traumatic brain injury.
  • Tianhe-2A(AKA – Milky Way 2) – Located in China and used for education and research.
  • ABCI – Located in Japan for use in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning.
  • Piz Daint – Located in Switzerland at the National Supercomputing Centre and used for weather service for climate modeling and for research by scientists around the world.
  • Titan – Located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for research in climate change and other scientific discoveries.
  • Sequoia – Located at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.
  • Trinity – Located at Los Alamos National Laboratory and  used for the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) for dismantling of nuclear weapons.
  • Cori – Used by the National Energy Research Science Computing for research in astrophysics.

I hope that you found this information helpful. Please feel free to forward to others.  If you would like to learn more on this topic or would like to request another topic for the future please contact me

Until next time…Happy Computing!!!

About Michael DeFlorio
I have worked is various positions as a system administrator, support technician, as a help desk support, and as an IT consultant in a corporate environment. I currently run a small business where I provide computer services such as hardware configuration, installation, for residential and for medium and small businesses. You can contact me by email or visit my website at

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