COMPUTERS

Computers of the future

PAUL BERTON June 17 1985
COMPUTERS

Computers of the future

PAUL BERTON June 17 1985

Computers of the future

COMPUTERS

For computer designers, increasing the speed at which their machines operate is a task that has become almost an obsession. Now, many experts foresee the development of what they call “parallel processing,” a system that enables different processors linked into one computer to work on different parts of one problem simultaneously to radically increase the speed of processing. So far, the theory has not led to any significant practical results. But a New York scientist and a Vancouver businessman have teamed up to build a parallel-processing computer which they say will be up to 100 times faster than the fastest “supercomputers” currently available. Declared Vancouver-based CHoPP Computer Co. general manager Donald Hutton: “This has the capacity to alter the way all computers are built in the future. It is heady stuff.”

The new computer will be based on the designs of Herbert Sullivan, who helped to pioneer parallel processing nine years ago while a professor at New York’s Columbia University. The work of Sullivan and others in deliberately “randomizing” memory structures laid the groundwork for several parallelprocessing machines currently under development. But Sullivan says that the Ultracomputer and other parallel machines raise difficulties because users have to waste time assigning individual tasks to each processor so that they can be handled simultaneously. He added that the CHoPP computer will take full advantage of the potential of parallel processing by performing that function automatically. Said Sullivan: “Computer scientists will be absolutely shocked and amazed. The implications of this will boggle the mind.”

Leonard Cohn, a former colleague of Sullivan who now works for Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp_ of Austin, Tex., says that a machine with those capabilites would be a breakthrough. For his part, Sullivan refused to divulge details of the patented technology. But the federal government was sufficiently impressed with the undertaking that it recently granted CHoPP a $7-million tax credit to build its first computer, which Hutton says will appear in 1987. If the investment should pay off, it could catapult Canada into the forefront of the supercomputer industry. -PAUL BERTON