Apr 3, 2004
Hundreds Meet in San Francisco to Create Instant Supercomputer
By Terence Chea
Associated Press Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Hundreds of area technophiles joined laptops Saturday in an attempt to create a computing force on par with the world's most powerful supercomputers.
The experiment organized by researchers at the University of San Francisco was designed to determine whether a gymnasium full of off-the-shelf personal computers networked together can muster enough power to process the most complex research problems.
Organizers hoped to break into the ranks of the world's top 500 supercomputers through the event, which they called "Flashmob Supercomputing."
"Flashmob is about democratizing supercomputing," said John Witchel, a graduate student at USF who codeveloped the concept. "It's about giving supercomputing power to the people so that we can decide how we want supercomputers to be used."
Supercomputers perform highly sophisticated functions, such as predicting weather patterns, modeling biological processes or animating movies. Most are run by government laboratories or big corporations because they are expensive, costing $25 million to $1 billion.
Saturday's flashmob event was a dry run designed to measure how much computing power could be generated, rather than tackle a specific task.
The term "flashmob" comes from the spontaneous Internet-organized gatherings that gained popularity last year. During the events, hundreds of people suddenly appear at a predetermined location, perform a wacky stunt - such as wearing purple hats or spinning in circles - then quickly disperse, leaving bystanders scratching their heads.
Saturday's event was not the first time citizens have pooled their computing power. For example, the SETI(at)home project has created a virtual supercomputer through Internet-connected PCs to search for signs of extraterrestrial life.
Organizers hope the Flashmob concept can eventually be applied to problems requiring high-powered computing such as the study of global warming or AIDS research.
On the Net:
USF FlashMob I: http://www.flashmobcomputing.org
Top 500 Supercomputing Sites: http://www.top500.org
This story can be found at: http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGASYQU7MSD.html