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November 15, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

Watford-based Artificial Intelligence Ltd has been previewing a new general purpose programming language conceived for developing software for all classes of concurrent computers. Strand88, shown last week at the Itex 88 Exhibition in London, is the first commercial implementation of the Strand – Stream-And parallelism – language, and it becomes available in February 1989. It is the result of a development project into programming parallel architectures. The language enables applications written in sequential code such as Fortran on a concurrent computing machine such as a workstation, to be ported to parallel architectures for processing with little or no effort, according to the company. Furthermore, re-programming needs to be done only once to cater for parallel processing during the life of an application, and allows the programmer to ignore the physical architecture of the delivery hardware. Testing of the first Strand 88 release is currently taking place at Intel Scientific Computers in Beaverton, Oregon and Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. An unspecified UK telecommunications company, a university and a US aerospace company are also said to be involved in the testing and Artificial Intelligence Ltd intends to use Strand 88 to teach parallel computer programming at two US universities next year. The Prolog language, and its Parlog extension, have provided the stimulus for the development of Strand, which combines features of each. It can run on stand-alone or multi-user networked workstations, supercomputers, and can extend into a local area network if supported by the target system environment. At present, versions are available for Sun Microsystems’ Sun-3 and Sun-4 series workstations, for Atari Corp’s Transputer Workstations – the things originally called Abaqs, for Transputer plug-in boards that have support for Helios, all Intel Corp’s iPSC/2s, and all Unix System V 80386-based workstations. iPSC/2 Lisp In addition, Artificial Intelligence Ltd also announced the results of benchmark tests which it says prove that iPSC/2 Lisp, a message-passing implementation of Common Lisp allowing it to run in parallel, runs Lisp 2.4 times faster on a 32-node IPSC/2 hypercube supercomputer than on a Cray X-MP. It was developed in a joint venture between the Watford company, Intel, and Lucid Inc, California. The artificial intelligence industry has always been a heavy user of computer power, and David Butler, managing director of the eponymous company, says that combining Lisp with traditional applications, given the price and performance advantages of concurrent computing, allows a more flexible and powerful approach to problem-solving in speech recognition and three dimensional object recognition. It supports lower level message passing of the iPSC/2, and as such joins C, Fortran and Ada in the Concurrent Workbench collection of software tools for the iPSC/2. Expert systems, production systems, natural language translation and understanding, planning, scheduling and non numeric simulation are the likely applications for iPSC/2 Lisp.

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