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Technology / AI and automation


A new class of graphical superminicomputer workstations that will enable users to attain visual realism on the screen at a relatively low cost will begin making their appearance before the end of the year, Andries Van Dam of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island told attendees at the IEEE Compcon ’87 conference in San Francisco the other day. We’ve had Crayettes, the minisupercomputers from the likes of Convex Computer Corp, now Van Dam has chosen to christen new workstations Cray-olas according to Microbytes Daily. Coming from the likes of William Podska’s Stellar Computer Corp, Allen Michels’ Dana Group, and Silicon Graphics Corp, the stations, says Van Dam, will provide the power of a Cray 1 with high-performance graphics output but at the desktop level and at relatively affordable costs – between $75,000 and $150,000. There will be at least a half dozen introducing Cray-olas in 1987, said Van Dam. All I want on my desk is a humble Cray 1 with a CT6 simulator, – whatever that is – he said, and added that a Cray-ola will provide the functional equivalent of this, typically being able to perform real-time colour simulation at 15 to 20 MIPS and at 20 to 40 MFLOPS. It will also be able to put on the screen between 100,000 to 200,000 polygons per second. In most environments, he expects Cray-olas to co-exist on a network with Crays or other supercomputers. A lot of what engineers do can be done on these machines, he declared. In fact, 80% of what they do can be done on a distributed system like this without having to worry about time-sharing, bandwidth, and other such problems. But as usual, hardware is under control and way ahead of the software: now we need to find out how to get Fortran, C, and other compilers to vectorise and parallelise and to learn the algorithms required to make effective use of the powerful new hardware.

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