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  1. Technology
March 1, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

A new class of computer that couples the computational speed of a supercomputer with high-performance graphics, priced and packaged like a technical workstation, was the way Sunnyvale, California-based Ardent Computer Corp – formerly Dana introduced its Titan graphics supercomputer yesterday. According to Ardent the Titan uses the 64-bit parallel vector architecture of supercomputers such as the Cray X-MP to score peak performance of 64 MFLOPS, and the machine also processes and displays graphical images at 200,000 full-colour three-dimensional shaded polygons per second. The legendary Gordon Bell, who inter alia designed the DEC VAX, and is now vice president, engineering, research and development at Ardent, reckons that Titan resolves the two great dilemmas of supercomputing – the inability of scientists to visualise the complex results of massive computations, and limited access to high-cost, centralised supercomputer resources. Titan’s closely-coupled dynamic graphics let scientists visualise results of massive computations in real time, he says. Application areas identified by Ardent include computational physics, chemistry and fluid dynamics, mechanical computer-aided engineering, seismic data processing, seismic interpretation, reservoir simulation, medical and military imaging and simulation and animation. The machine is built of field-expandable parallel processors, has a high bandwidth processor-to-memory structure, and comes with Fortran and C compilers that accept and transform DEC VAX and Cray Research versions of the languages. The Unix operating system is compatible with System V.3 and Berkeley 4.3 extensions. It also supports Ethernet, thin Ethernet, Network File System and other communications and networking protocols, and incorporates Ardent’s Dynamic Object-Rendering Environment software for interactive visualisation of complex data generated by supercomputers, introduced last month. Single- and dual processor versions of Titan have already been shipped and three and four-processor models will be available in the fourth quarter. Prices start at $79,000 for a single-processor Titan and go to $150,000 for a four-CPU box.

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