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Technology / AI and automation


Streaking ahead of the pack in the esoteric field of parallel processing – it already has more than 75 of its machines installed – Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc, Cambridge, has completed the raising of $32m for a tax-efficient research and development Limited Partnership to design a second generation of its Butterfly parallel processor, which presently consists of lots of Motorola 68020s running in tandem. The cash was raised by PaineWebber Development Corp, and will enable BBN Advanced Computers Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bolt Beranek, to develop and market computers based on the Butterfly architecture – and, equally important, to develop native parallel software for the machines. The $32m will be spent over three years, and the stress will be on parallel computers for complex-system simulation, image understanding and real-time monitoring and control in industrial, engineering and technical markets. The new computer systems will include parallel programming development tools, but will also support major industry-standard software programs used in the target fields. The current Butterfly interconnects up to 256 microprocessors, expanding in single-processor increments; it is being used in artificial intelligence, parallel language development, signal processing and data communications by the likes of Du Pont, Martin Marietta, Rochester University, Hughes Aircraft, Rockwell International and RCA.

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