What is a Supercomputer?
Is it a personal computer (PC) with a cape? No! A supercomputer is an extremely powerful computer which is a gazillion times faster than an ordinary computer and is used to solve BIG, critical problems quickly.
How does a Supercomputer work compared to a normal PC?
A PC takes in information, stores and processes it, and then generates an answer.
A Supercomputer does the same thing, only faster, with more data and in a different way.
Computers in the ’80s and ’90s processed one operation at a time, similar to checking things off a ‘to-do’ list in a certain order. This was known as “Serial Processing”. Today’s computers and smartphones are slightly better as they are able to process many things at a time.
Supercomputers are used to solve complicated problems, like climate forecasting astronomy or medical research.
A Supercomputer can solve these complicated problems much faster by doing many operations together through “Parallel Processing”. It has more processors or more minicomputers attached to it. A Supercomputer splits the problem into many chunks. Each processor solves a different piece in parallel or at the same time as the other processors. All answers are available at the same time, and the supercomputer then puts together all these answers, thinks about them, and spits out predictions.
Where is the world’s fastest Supercomputer?
The fastest supercomputer in the world as of June 2018 is made by IBM and is called “The Summit”. It combines High-Performance Computing with Artificial Intelligence capabilities.
How fast is it? Woah! It has 37,000 processors. If the entire population of the Earth used their computers every second of every day continuously for 305 days, that’s apparently what The Summit can do in one second!
How big is it? The Summit is roughly the size of two tennis courts and weighs more than an airplane. It uses energy which is enough to power up 7,000 homes. Whew!
So why do we need Supercomputers?
Supercomputers can be used to analyse large amounts of data from many different sources, at different points in time, and to provide predictions
For example, supercomputers equipped with powerful algorithms like machine-learning could be used to analyze telescopic images and data to find new planetary systems.
They can also be used in weather prediction, the inputs come from satellites, radar, flight reports, shipping reports, currents, winds, and so many more sources. The supercomputer can take all these inputs and analyse them and give us the weather forecast for the week – like you can see on your weather app, or on the television. It can also be used for scientific discoveries, defense, medicine, design and more!
Shruti Divecha was a graphic and textile designer by profession till her curiosity filled daughter pulled out the writer inside her. She writes stories, GK nuggets and teaches recycled crafts to children.