Older guys like me who have spent some decades in this “industry” still remember Cray and his creations. When someone plays with Angry Birds or “composes” music on GarageBand, we forget how far we have moved with processing power, size and power consumption in the last 25 years.
A research group has run a test on Apple iPad 2, and it turns out that the tablet would be a rival for a four-processor version of the Cray 2 supercomputer, which, with eight processors, was the world’s fastest computer in 1985. They have run the test on only one of the iPad microprocessor’s two processing cores. When they finish their project, they estimate that the iPad 2 will have a Linpack benchmark of between 1.5 and 1.65 gigaflops which would have insured that the iPad 2 could have stayed on the list of the world’s fastest supercomputers through 1994. More here: The iPad in Your Hand: As Fast as a Supercomputer of Yore – NYTimes.com.
IEEE’s Spectrum magazine had recently an article, The Tops of the Flops, on the recent performance increases and it was comparing 1.8 teraflops produced by Sony Playstation 3 (2006, 150 sq.m, 800 KWatts) with Sandia Lab’s ASCI Red (1997, 0.08 sq.m, <200 Watts). To get an idea of where we are now, Tianhe-1A in China’s (!) National Supercomputing Center has 186000 cores and a processing power of 4700 teraflops. For those who have access to IEEE’s content: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?isnumber=5693048&arnumber=5693074