Basser Seminar Series

A Half-century, Brief, History of Supercomputing

Speaker: Gordon Bell
Researcher Emeritus, Microsoft, USA

When: Wednesday 12 November, 2014, 4:00-5:00pm

Where: The University of Sydney, School of IT Building, SIT Lecture Theatre (Room 123), Level 1

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On visiting Livermore and seeing LARC a half century ago, I marveled at a kind of large computer built at the edge of technology and a market’s ability to pay. As a machine builder, researcher, administrator, supporter, funder, critic, and historian there’s nothing quite like supercomputers. I’ll posit “my highpoints” in two scientific computing era: the mono(memory)-computer aka SR Cray computer era and today’s multi-computer eras. The overlap decade (mid-80s) of the search for performance and scaling where about 40 companies lost their lives resulted in the current way–clusters, Beowulf, and MPI. Now with limited gain in clock speed, we all speculate at how to harness the vast parallelism required to maintain the “capability computing” edge. Will or how will we maintain the x1000 gains per decade in the future?

Speaker's biography

Gordon Bell is a Researcher Emeritus at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Laboratory. He has worked as a computer designer, parallel architecture researcher, administrator, supporter, funder, critic, and historian. He spent 23 years at Digital Equipment Corporation (part of HP) as Vice President of Research and Development. He was the architect of various mini- and time-sharing computers and led the development of DEC's VAX. Bell has been involved in, or responsible for, the design of products at Digital, Encore, Ardent, and a score of other companies.

Bell has a BS and MS degree from MIT (1956-57), D. Eng. (hon.) from WPI (1993) and D.Sci and Tech (hon.) from CMU (2010). During 1966-72 he was Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University. In 1986-1987 he was the first Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation's Computing Directorate, CISE including the Supercomputing Centers program. He led the National Research and Education (NREN) Network panel that became the Internet and was an author of the first High Performance Computer and Communications Initiative.

Bell has authored books and papers about computer structures, lifelogging, and startup companies. In April 1991, Addison-Wesley published High Tech Ventures: The Guide to Entrepreneurial Success. In 2009, Dutton published Total Recall that describes the journey to storing one’s entire life that was written with Jim Gemmell. He is a founder and board member of the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CA.

Bell is a member of various professional organizations including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Fellow), American Association for the Advancement of Science (Fellow), ACM (Fellow), IEEE (Fellow and Computer Pioneer), and the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering. His awards include: IEEE's McDowell and Eckert-Mauchly Awards, the Von Neumann Medal, and the 1991 National Medal of Technology.

Mr. Bell lives in San Francisco and Sydney Australia with his wife, Sheridan Sinclaire-Bell.