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Mobile Phones vs. Supercomputers of the Past

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the crays-are-pure-sculpture dept.

Supercomputing 247

An anonymous reader writes "The recently published Top 500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers is based on the Linpack benchmark developed decades ago by Jack Dongarra. This same test has been ported to Android mobile phones, which means that we can compare the performance of our phones against that of the supercomputers of the past. For example, a tweaked Motorola Droid can hit 52 Mflop/s, which is more than 15 times faster than the CPUs used in the 1979 Cray-1." But even today's most powerful cellphones don't come with an integrated bench.

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Tweaked Motorola Droid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32448828)

It was submerged in liquid nitrogen which really did a number on the researchers ears.

Things like this... (5, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32448928)

...make me kinda sad. On the one hand, I LOVE when I was born (1984). I'm old enough to remember a time without the Internet, without a PC in every home, and when cell phones were the size of briefcases...yet I'm still young enough to take advantage of technological innovations, keep up with advances, and appreciate the impact it has on our lives.

On the other hand, I wonder how much amazing stuff I would see had I been born even just 20 years later. In my lifetime I have already watched (for example) the NES as a state of the art system turn into the average gaming PC having a video card capable of over 1 teraflop worth of processing power. How much extra innovation and advancement would I see if I had STARTED with those 1+ teraflop cards?

"Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow." -Kay

Re:Things like this... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449002)

On the bright (sort of...) side - later time of your birth probably wouldn't prevent you from being dismissive of new things, from certain point, anyway.

Re:Things like this... (2, Interesting)

shar303 (944843) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449022)

At the risk of appearing pedantic it's worth pointing out that not as many people thought that the world was flat as is commonly believed -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myth_of_the_Flat_Earth [wikipedia.org]

Re:Things like this... (0, Offtopic)

rve (4436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449492)

The earth is flat, to claim otherwise is just ignorant and racist

Re:Things like this... (4, Insightful)

adonoman (624929) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449672)

It's pretty close to flat - the curvature of the earth is less than a foot per mile - a rounding error really, given that even the smoothest of prairies can easily vary by more than that.

Re:Things like this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449038)

Cellular phones were never the size of a briefcase. Bag phones were the size of a small purse. Perhaps you are thinking of satphones?

But yep, it is definitely a good thing to have had a few years growing up without the Internet. To see how better things were when they were simple and when fewer distractions existed. I was born the next year, and despite being a computer engineer, I really miss some of those simplicities notwithstanding childhood.

Re:Things like this... (1)

cmiller173 (641510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449222)

Cellular phones were never the size of a briefcase.

Granted not technically "Cellular" technology but briefcase phones did exist using VHF and UHF frequencies. http://www.privateline.com/IMTS/briefcasephotos.htm [privateline.com] http://www.privateline.com/IMTS/briefcase2.htm [privateline.com]

Re:Things like this... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449490)

I suggest you start here Mobiles through the ages [talktalk.co.uk] and come back here once you are familiar with the subject you are commenting on. Got to love people who are experts on subjects they don't understand.

Re:Things like this... (1)

M8e (1008767) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449940)

I clearly remember my grandmother having a green cellular(=nmt) phone the size of a briefcase in her sommer house. These cellular phones was called carphones for a reason.

Re:Things like this... (1)

cfc-12 (1195347) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449058)

1984... you insensitive clod!

Re:Things like this... (1)

Explodicle (818405) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449124)

If the transhumanists are right [wikipedia.org] , you may have been born just in time for the really cool stuff.

Re:Things like this... (1)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449574)

They're not, in my opinion at least. I was a true believer for a while. But the actual progress just isn't matching the hoped for predictions. From a life extension perspective, there's really no chance. I've been following things for about a decade now, and the progress has been pretty much zilch. And it's not that much better from the concept of uploading. Fmri is still king of brain scanning. And as great as it is, it's about as close to what we'd need there as saying that someone is immortal because they've had a painting made of them. While I think it's inevitable that one of those will get there eventually, I don't see it in the lifetime of anyone reading this.

Re:Things like this... (1)

jackchance (947926) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449998)

Fmri is still king of brain scanning.

While fMRI is currently the dominant technique for scanning brain activity, it wouldn't be used for "uploading your brain". In order to preserve the information in your brain we really need the network diagram. Currently there a few groups in the world automating the process of cutting and scanning neural tissue with electron microscopy: Dr. Winfried Denk - serial block-face scanning electron microscopy and Dr. Clay Reid [acm.org] , to name two. Currently, they can only scan a 1mm^3 piece of brain. But it's really at this point just an engineering problem to do the whole brain.

An important issue that few people discuss is that even if you had a full network diagram of your brain and the hard disks to store it on (It's estimated that humans have on the order of 10^16 neural connections. If we say that we just need one byte per connection we would still need 10 petabytes per brain. And this is a reduced representation. During the actual scan we would need far more storage to trace all the physical connections) you would need some very impressive hardware to RUN your consciousness. Some have estimated that all of the CPUs currently connected to the internet have about the processing power of a single human brain. So, unless you are fabulously wealthy, you won't be able to pay for the hardware and electric bill of running your immortal consciousness.

Re:Things like this... (2, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32450136)

...so it would really boil down to how useful running your brain simulation is to the rest of humanity. Guess the answer to that.

Re:Things like this... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32450066)

I think waiting for any "breakthrough" is a grieve error, generally. And nothing new, humans wish for such "breakthroughs" in their individual immortality for a long, long time - we had many ressurection deities; and early Christians were absolutely convinced they will see a breakthrough very quickly, basically within a generation.

But wishes rarely work out as predictions of future events; when the latter do happen anyway, people are generally taken by surprise or at the least didn't see it coming in quite such way. Life extension won't be different; especially since...we have quite a lot of it already. Not merely in advanced medicine, also in how much we can leave behind us - with that amount ever increasing, and for bigger and bigger portion of humanity. Eventually that data will take a life of its own; or have done so already, depending where's your cutoff point.
Sure, that's not a direct continuity for "really us" conciousness...but that's largely pointless. The most cherished and most resistant to preserve "data" are a pretty low-level, biological, not unique stuff anyway. When you honestly look at it, one can safely say we lead at least many thousands instances of our life at this very moment already.

Re:Things like this... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449854)

I don't really see how "transhumanist" is applicable in the case of people very much clinging to their individual lives. Which is very...good ol' human-like; and quite typical generally.

It's K not Kay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449140)

The MIB agents from earth go strictly by the first initial of the first name they previously held before joining the organization.

Re:It's K not Kay (1)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449244)

Re:It's K not Kay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449722)

Within the context of the movie it was clearly stated that they were single letter initials only. IMDB is not all knowing.

Re:It's K not Kay (1)

discojohnson (930368) | more than 4 years ago | (#32450148)

oh snap, thems fightin citations!

Re:Things like this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449170)

Whoever this "Kay" character is, he's an idiot. NOBODY thought the Earth was flat 500 years ago! The Ancient GREEKS knew it was round; they REASONED it from simple observations!

"and appreciate the impact it has on our lives."

Please. The toys kids play with impact NOTHING in your life. Compared to one hundred years ago, our lives are much better because of mainly cheap energy ( OIL ), electrification, and lots of simple machines like toasters, fridges, stoves, vacuum cleaners, etc. Once you live in the 1960s, everything else is minor changes. A portable phone with pictures is nothing compared to suddenly living in car-powered cities vs. agricultural existence.

"I wonder how much amazing stuff I would see had I been born even just 20 years later."

Don't wonder, work on anti-aging and life extension. Who cares about iPads and other toys?

Re:Things like this... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449272)

The difference is information and communication. With high powered devices in our pockets that can access the Internet and make international calls, we can learn or reference nearly anything on the spot. One of my co-workers does not own a cell-phone. If someone needs to contact him, it can be days before they get a response. While at lunch with this fellow, we came across a bit of trivia that neither of us knew off hand. With a compatible phone, we could instantly look that information up, rather than sitting at the lunch table pondering the answer, or trying to remember to look it up when we got back to the office. Little things like that may not seem as big as hunter/gather into agriculture society, but eventually it will.

Re:Things like this... (3, Insightful)

Lundse (1036754) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449508)

A portable phone with pictures is nothing compared to suddenly living in car-powered cities vs. agricultural existence.

Maybe it is not comparable to the agrarian hunter gatherer vs. industrialized society-gap, but everyone being able to film and upload in seconds does make an impact. (I headed here from the ongoing discussion over cops not wanting people to film them; some balance of power is shifting here).

The toys may not matter much in the lives of the individual, but neither does a car in itself. Living in a society where everyone has a car, and products can be moved about with ease, does make a difference - and so does living in a world where everyone can share anything with everybody.
The profit-motive and gadget-fever western society is so wild about right now is making huge, serious changes elsewhere:
http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/04/sms-fights-malaria-scourge-in-africa/ [wired.com]
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/ghana/090527/africa-looks-cell-phone-banking [globalpost.com]
And that whole outsourcing thing we are seeing the tip of now...

Re:Things like this... (4, Funny)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449184)

I was born in 1971. Which means if I were a computer I would be obsolete and replaced by a faster, younger model with prettier looks.

Come to think of it, maybe I am a computer....

Re:Things like this... (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449934)

Or someone's future ex-wife.

Re:Things like this... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449200)

There is a fair chance that the getting sad over when you were born is an innate characteristic of you, rather than an actual result of when you were born.

So if you were 16 or whatever, you would be sad that you missed the era of drinking and driving, or something like that (I guess you still missed it, I am a little older than you an also missed it, but the point is that you would probably find something to lament).

Re:Things like this... (4, Interesting)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449218)

"On the other hand, I wonder how much amazing stuff I would see had I been born even just 20 years later (than 1984)"

If you were born in 2004 you would have missed out on everything. All you'd know is multi-core processors, terabytes and petabytes, touchscreen everything, wireless internet everywhere, 24/7 access to everyone you don't really know and directions to anywhere from anywhere available in your pocket. You'd have no appreciation for any of it and probably know nothing about computers because modern operating systems are far better than offerings in the 90s.

Trust me when I say you were born at the right time.

Re:Things like this... (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449238)

Trust me when I say you were born at the right time.

Hey it's Paul Simon!

Re:Things like this... (1)

Grapes4Buddha (32825) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449752)

My son was born in 2005 and doesn't believe me when I say we can't watch TV shows on the GPS, or when I say we can't pause a show on the living room TV where we don't have a DVR.

Re:Things like this... (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449230)

On the other hand, I wonder how much amazing stuff I would see had I been born even just 20 years later.

Answer: Not much, as you would take it all for granted and be unable to appreciate it [youtube.com] .

Re:Things like this... (4, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449592)

I'm only a couple of decades older than you. I agree with you, but I also realize that I take it as a given that, during the course of my lifespan, there's always been television (not color to start with, but there was TV), that indoor plumbing and lights have always been around, flight is not only possible but commonplace and pretty much always has been, and the moon landing happened before I was born.

A part of me regrets missing the introduction of all of those exciting technologies and innovations, because to me they are all background things that just are. They aren't wondrous, they just are.

No matter where you live in history, there are always improvements that you'll appreciate, but there's always amazing stuff that was there before that you will only see as part of the world as it's always been, and will be even more amazing stuff that will come after you that would probably blow your mind if you ever had the chance to see it (or would be so far beyond your comprehension you couldn't appreciate it).

You don't truly appreciate the amazing parts of an advance unless you've watched those parts happen.

To me, computers (and video games, etc), color/stereo televisions, microwaves, mobile phones, digital wristwatches, and many of the things you no doubt take for granted are marvels. When I was a kid, they largely did not exist. Which is not to say they all of them were completely unavailable, but when I was growing up no one I knew owned any of them and they were brand new.

I both envy my grandparents (now all dead) and my yet-to-be-born grandchildren the wonders of their lifetimes that I will never see they way they do. The wonders of my grandparents are my commonplace items. The wonders of my grandchildren are probably beyond my imagination.

But that's just human nature. We want to see it all. And eventually we learn we'll never succeed. It's both heartening and saddening at the same time.

Re:Things like this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32450174)

hey you aint the mib sucka!

Beowulf Cluster (0)

tedgyz (515156) | more than 4 years ago | (#32448930)

So Seymour Cray should have traveled to the future, scooped up a pallet of Droid phones and then created a beowulf cluster [beowulf.org] ?

Re:Beowulf Cluster (1)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449118)

So Seymour Cray should have traveled to the future, scooped up a pallet of Droid phones and then created a beowulf cluster?

He did (or will-have did, to use the correct temporal tense). Sadly, though, his actions violated causality, which caused the cosmos to smite him as he was driving along a local Interstate [wikipedia.org] . It was a tragedy, and I'm glad the cosmos now follows (I mean, now/later will-follows) a "low-impact" policy, using intervention agents such as birds and baguettes.

Time machine (3, Insightful)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32448938)

So if I read this correctly, the point of this article is we should get a time machine so we can go back to the 70's and impress people with our smartphones?

See the problem here is that they won't have wifi or 3G coverage. All we'll be able to do is show those people of the ancient past Angry Bird and maybe one of those "pull-my-finger" apps. It just won't be all that impressive.

Re:Time machine (2, Insightful)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 4 years ago | (#32448996)

I was about to say, all this computing power finally in the hands of the ordinary person and what's the most popular application? Fart Button...

Re:Time machine (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449072)

When you're talking about iPhones and iPads, none of the power is truly in the hands of the "ordinary person". The power is solely in the hands of Apple, who may or may not allow you access to the applications that would truly make use of such powerful hardware.

Re:Time machine (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449190)

I don't know about your fart button, but mine calculates the trajectory of the fart in real time.

Re:Time machine (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449262)

Can it successfully plot the Brownian motion of a single methane molecule? If not, is that only another 30 years away?

Re:Time machine (4, Funny)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449428)

If there's "brownian motion" it's really more of a shart.

Re:Time machine (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449756)

Speaking of which, didn't fart apps seem to really took off only on one platform?...

Re:Time machine (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 4 years ago | (#32450058)

I was about to say, all this computing power finally in the hands of the ordinary person and what's the most popular application? Fart Button.../quote.

So? It shows how plentiful computing resources are. Guess you never heard the prediction about how there'd only be 5 computers in the world.

Clearly, they would be much more impressed... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449034)

...by our time machines and shaved privates.

Re:Clearly, they would be much more impressed... (5, Funny)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449240)

If I had a time machine, I'd go into the future, find the future self of my time machine, disassemble it, put it in my time machine, bring it back to the present, reassemble it, then I'd have two time machines.

I'd never have to buy parts again.

Re:Clearly, they would be much more impressed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32450108)

You would only have two time machines till someone suddenly would disassemble your second one.

Re:Clearly, they would be much more impressed... (2, Funny)

BobNET (119675) | more than 4 years ago | (#32450154)

Except some jerk from the past will someday show up and steal one of your time machines!

Re:Time machine (1)

AffidavitDonda (1736752) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449146)

The touchscreen alone would've been quite impressive to them. To me at least, who was a nine year old kid at the time...

Re:Time machine (1)

kindbud (90044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449194)

So if I read this correctly, the point of this article is we should get a time machine so we can go back to the 70's and impress people with our smartphones?

It's already happened. How do you think we got the tech in the first place?

Re:Time machine (0)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449198)

If you prestocked your phone with several gigs of music, I think they'd be extremely impressed. Maybe not with Miley Cyrus but I'm sure Lady Gaga and Ke$ha would fit right in with 70's music.

Re:Time machine (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449254)

Taking the 15x performance increase over the 1979 Cray, we find that there are about 4 doublings to get 15x (16x) meaning that the android phone roughly compares to a 1985 Supercomputer, which doesn't surprise me at all. My cheap, now antiquated WinMo smart phone easily plays 486-era DOS games in a virtual box emulator, despite being a radically different chipset. (Arm, not x86) So factor in approximately 50% cut in performance due to emulation, and you have my phone demonstrably comparing to (at least!) a midlevel Pentium, and that's a minimum.

Honestly, sometimes it's astounding to me just how much processing power we throw away because it's just so cheap. When you read just how much performance this guy gets out of a single-core Dothan [blogspot.com] it just blows the mind. Underscoring my point: did you know that Mailinator runs entirely on one, not-so-impressive 2 Ghz AMD Athlon and a whopping 1 GB of RAM? [highscalability.com]

Re:Time machine (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449318)

So if I read this correctly, the point of this article is we should get a time machine so we can go back to the 70's and impress people with our smartphones?

See the problem here is that they won't have wifi or 3G coverage. All we'll be able to do is show those people of the ancient past Angry Bird and maybe one of those "pull-my-finger" apps. It just won't be all that impressive.

no time machine needed. just go to Africa to one of the shithole third-world countries, the niggers there dont even have sanitation or potable water cuz theyre stone-age primitive niggers. they will be impressed

Integrated bench (2, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#32448962)

It's sad. I was at the Computer Museum in Mountain View a few years ago, where they had a Cray-I in a corner of the lobby, just sitting there used as a bench. It's not even labeled; some visitors think it's just furniture.

Re:Integrated bench (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449054)

Well, you have to admit, the Cray I looks an awful lot like a piece of furniture [wikimedia.org] .

I wouldn't be able to sit on one, though. It would somehow seem....disrespectful.

Re:Integrated bench (1)

Vekseid (1528215) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449132)

If anything it's forward thinking. Why not integrate computing power into your furniture?

It also looks rather awesome.

Re:Integrated bench (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449418)

Maybe not so awesome anymore... [helmer.sfe.se] (though TBH I appreciate such discretion)

Re:Integrated bench (1)

12345Doug (706366) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449646)

I remember in high school taking a trip to the Naval Research center just outside of DC. They had a Cray (can't remember which one it was 1990) that the whole class sat on while the presenter talked. Until I saw that picture I completely forgot about it.

Re:Integrated bench (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449094)

I saw that on Wikipedia just now and thought the same thing, it would be like turning the retired Space Shuttles into a restaurant.

Very undignified end for a brilliant piece of engineering.

Re:Integrated bench (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449698)

Are you kidding me? That restaurant would make so much money!

Re: Space Restaurant (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449870)

Actually, no!

If done *properly* with by someone with visionary capital, a really decked out Restaurant with future tech would be 2025-Now.

But no, we'll get some twerp with a Meijer background who would want to make it kitschy.

Re:Integrated bench (1)

shar303 (944843) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449112)

a suitable penalty for such disrespect would be to work out all the prime numbers up to 10,000, on paper. ...and then to chop down the highest tree in the forest with a herring

Re:Integrated bench (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449292)

It's sad. I was at the Computer Museum in Mountain View a few years ago, where they had a Cray-I in a corner of the lobby, just sitting there used as a bench. It's not even labeled; some visitors think it's just furniture.

Well, a label would be nice, but what would you rather do with it?

Fire it up, port Firefox to it, and use it as the world's slowest web terminal?
Put in behind a glass case so nobody can touch it or get a sense of its scale?

Re:Integrated bench (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449296)

Same thing in London.

1979 tech still wins (5, Informative)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449104)

For example, a tweaked Motorola Droid can hit 52 Mflop/s, which is more than 15 times faster than the CPUs used in the 1979 Cray-1.

"The Cray-1 had 12 pipelined functional units" and had "floating point performance generally about 136 MFLOPS. However, by using vector instructiosn carefully and building useful chains, the system could peak at 250 MFLOPS."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cray-1 [wikipedia.org]

Re:1979 tech still wins (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449168)

I believe it was a CPU to CPU comparison. 136/12 = 11?

Re:1979 tech still wins (5, Interesting)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449444)

Ah but all work on the Cray-1 was programed to be as parallel as possible, so cpu to cpu isn't an appropriate comparison. Much more useful is device output, in which case the 136 MFLOPS is significantly better performance than the 52 MFLOPS.

That is of course not considering that the designers of the Java applet that runs the benchmark admit that you're moreso benchmarking the java effeciency of a given device with their app than the full performance of the device.

Well, also not considering the $6m to $8m price tag of the Cray-1 vs the $200 (after rebate and 2 year plan) price tag of the Droid. Even factoring in inflation, I think my droid wins the performance-per-dollar crown by a little bit.

It does mean though that the intial statement "15 times faster than the cpus in the cray-1" is not quite reality. more like 5 times faster.

Re:1979 tech still wins (1)

Silly Man (15712) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449206)

Which is the what my toaster oven can do today

Re:1979 tech still wins (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449442)

Now rate them for watts/FLOP and tell us who wins.

Re:1979 tech still wins (1)

Mathness (145187) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449584)

Cray-1 wins again, mobile phones are well known to be extremely poor space heaters. ,P

Re:1979 tech still wins (1)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449726)

actually my droid's battery gets pretty damn warm when i'm playing robo tower defense or making a long phone call.

I'm not saying I can heat the room with it, but it might keep my ear warm in winter.

Re:1979 tech still wins (1)

painandgreed (692585) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449556)

Ya, but let's see the Cray-1 make a phone call and then fit in your pocket.

Re:1979 tech still wins (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449760)

Go go gadget Cray-1!

Re:1979 tech still wins (1)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449984)

the droid makes a really poor bench.

Re:1979 tech still wins (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449718)

More importantly, it was the sort of computer that could instill fear in a man's heart. Today we hold all of this power in our hands like it's nothing, and the poor programmer has lost his mad scientist cred.

Re:1979 tech still wins (1)

imgod2u (812837) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449768)

I'm curious about Linpack results when running under Dalvik. I believe Froyo 2.2 enabled Dalvik start using the FPU of the ARM ISA. So what were the results before? Emulated floating point?

On top of that, the ARM ISA allows for SIMD operations. I would assume the VM isn't capable of that.

If we're to compare processing power, the Cortex A8 at 1GHz (A4, OMAP 3640, overclocked Droid) is capable of a vector multiply (2 at a time) every 3 cycles and add in 2 cycles. So that's about 400 MFLOPS.

lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449822)

For example, a tweaked Motorola Droid can hit 52 Mflop/s, which is more than 15 times faster than the CPUs used in the 1979 Cray-1.

"The Cray-1 had 12 pipelined functional units" and had "floating point performance generally about 136 MFLOPS. However, by using vector instructiosn carefully and building useful chains, the system could peak at 250 MFLOPS."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cray-1 [wikipedia.org]

Less storage than an iPad, no wireless. Lame.

Speed (2, Funny)

DebianDog (472284) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449236)

Did they think they could run their website on a Droid too? Man it is slow.

Re:Speed (2, Funny)

Bigbutt (65939) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449776)

No no, it's running on a Cray-1. If it were running on a Droid, it'd be a bit faster.

[John]

different problem size in linpack. (4, Informative)

flaming-opus (8186) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449304)

I thought it was strange that the article author was reporting that a cray 1 only produced 3.4 mflops on linpack, which had a peak performance around 130 mflops. Looks like the author doesn't understand the benchmark very well.

If you look at the data quoted in the article, the n=100 result gives the Cray1 a score of either 3 or 12 mflops, depending on which entry you look at. There is no n=1000 result listed for the Cray 1, but one can expect, looking at the Cray XMP results, that it would be around 100, given the peak performance. The ETA10 would likely get a couple thousand mflops on linpack with n=1000.

The Cray 1 is more than a little dated. That said, if you look at supers from the early 90's, they still can do things that modern commodity hardware can't. As fast as a xeon or opteron is, it doesn't have 300Gbytes/second of memory bandwidth. Even late-80's supercomputers exceed desktops in some metrics, though probably not in raw ALU performance if the data all fits into L1 cache. The cost to run a desktop, however, is pretty compelling, and they don't leak freon when they run.

nouns are fun! (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449364)

Mobile Phone: a device that can make telephone calls and can be easily transported in a pocket or purse.
Supercomputer: a computing device that people call 'super'.

One is a quantitative definition, and one is a qualitative definition. I will let you decide which is which!

Re:nouns are fun! (1)

Bugamn (1769722) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449594)

And that is the point of the article, devices that are created to be small enough to fit inside a pocket or purse are already more powerful than devices that in the past were called 'super', which occupied a lot of space before.

Re:nouns are fun! (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449918)

Mobile Phone: a device that can make telephone calls and can be easily transported in a pocket or purse.

Actually, that last part is a fairly modern result.

Initially, "mobile" phones were huge. I remember some that were basically a brief-case sized battery with a corded phone attached. No way you could put 'em in a pocket or a purse.

Just like some of the early "portable" computers (luggables) were still heavy boxes with a CRT in it -- sure, you could move them from one place to another more easily than a desktop with wires. But they were heavy beasts and you didn't move them about on a whim.

The supercomputer designation has also changed a lot over the years. Used to mean the biggest and fastest machines available, and usually still does. Heck, at one point, any machine over 1GHz was considered munitions and not legal for export since that was the threshold for a "supercomputer" at that time.

One is a quantitative definition, and one is a qualitative definition.

Actually, they're both qualitative definitions "mobile" and "super" do not represent quantities. And, over the lifetime of those words, no specific threshold for "mobile" or "super" has been established that lasted for more than a relatively short period of time.

Crays did proper work (3, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449390)

Not rendering bitty little colour screens or scanning for viruses. Plus the code was written to extract every last drop of power out of the architecture. So when you compare the amount of WORK a machine from the 70s or 80s did (my university's mainframe had a FORTRAN complier that needed less that 131kWord of memory - today the GRUB bootloader is bigger than that) with a more modern box, with all its overheads and inefficiencies, the balance isn't as great as the scoffers might think.

Re:Crays did proper work (1)

Atmchicago (555403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449462)

That's because in the time it takes to optimize everything into itty-bitty pieces, the next generation of hardware comes out and is faster without bothering. There are operating systems out there written entirely in assembly, and assuming they're done properly I can imagine they are quite lean... but it takes forever to add features.

Re:Crays did proper work (4, Interesting)

somenickname (1270442) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449484)

Not rendering bitty little colour screens or scanning for viruses. Plus the code was written to extract every last drop of power out of the architecture. So when you compare the amount of WORK a machine from the 70s or 80s did (my university's mainframe had a FORTRAN complier that needed less that 131kWord of memory - today the GRUB bootloader is bigger than that) with a more modern box, with all its overheads and inefficiencies, the balance isn't as great as the scoffers might think.

Does that make it any less impressive that a cell phone is putting up these kinds of numbers? Does it make it less impressive that you can code up an Linpack in Java, throw it at a JVM and rely on JIT compiler to optimize the DAXPY for the hardware on the fly? I think it both of those things are pretty damn impressive.

Re:Crays did proper work (3, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449644)

Ya, well you probably still think digital watches are a neat idea.

Moore's law fail (1)

l00sr (266426) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449416)

Somehow, I'm not so impressed, considering Moore's Law predicts a roughly 1 million-fold (= 2^(30/2)) increase in transistor count over the span of 30 years...

Re:Moore's law fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449786)

You should have looked a *bit* closer. It is running in a java virtual machine. Also those 'top 100' computers are usually parallel number crunching beasts (at least for the time). The phone in question would be a single thread running on top of a virtual machine. So not exactly a 1 to 1 comparison. Just sort of interesting.

Also more transistors does not equal more speed. Mores law is about smaller area and lower cost (less pins and wires and chips).

So mores law is very much shown here. A droid costs what 300-500 bucks? And even with all the jvm and single thread junk in the way it was sort of competitive? What did a CRAY-1 cost? Dont forget inflation. How much room did one take up? How much did it cost to maintain? Notice the one thing I keep on about here? Cost. That is what moores law is about.

We got speed for awhile as they were ALSO ramping up clock rates also at the same time. The bringing together of components allowed for that. Leakage rates have slowed that down considerably.

The CRAY arch and the Droid arch are 2 different things one being the classic pc arch the other being a n to many processor arch. It does show if you were to build something like a 1980s cray today with existing off the shelf parts you could get a majorly interesting machine.

Math fail (1)

phizix (1143711) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449826)

Somehow, I'm not so impressed, considering Moore's Law predicts a roughly 1 million-fold (= 2^(30/2)) increase in transistor count over the span of 30 years...

2^(30/2) = 2^(15) = 32768.

Re:Moore's law fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449920)

So throw size into the equation as well: 0.3 pounds vs 10,500 lbs for a factor of 35,000 in size and a factor of 15 in performance. So on a performance/size metric we are off by a factor of about 2 from what Moore's law would predict, not to bad for estimating with exponential functions over 30 years.

You fail on /. QED you fail at life (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32450020)

Fail quoting Moore's law

Moore's law allows for 1) more transistors in the same space (hence more power), or 2) the same transistors in a smaller space (such as the Droid).

Ridiculous Comparison (5, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449434)

For example, a tweaked Motorola Droid can hit 52 Mflop/s, which is more than 15 times faster than the CPUs used in the 1979 Cray-1.

Cray's approach [wikipedia.org] to supercomputing wasn't just to make the CPU fast. Indeed, he outcompeted faster CPUs by making all of his computers fast, so no power in the machine was wasted waiting for something else. Especially IO and memory were his focus for throughput. A Droid's CPU is bottlenecked by the rest of the device.

This unfair comparison isn't just whining about missing Cray's point. There's a lot of power in that Droid that the SW can't exploit, because its bottlenecks leave the fast parts waiting. Not only does that slow them down, but it wastes electrical energy. Which is the biggest problem in mobile devices.

LINPACK isn't the best way to measure supercomputers, and "nanocomputers" like mobile phones could be better if they learned something from Cray's research 40 years ago.

Re:Ridiculous Comparison (4, Interesting)

whyde (123448) | more than 4 years ago | (#32450144)

Actually, for mobile devices, the most important metric is performance per unit of power instead of just performance per unit time. After a certain speed/throughput has been reached, nobody cares how fast the CPU is, only how long the battery lasts.

For scientific purposes, back when Cray was building systems, you got charged by the second you had access to the computer. So you carefully composed the solution to your problem to make darned sure every whizz-bang aspect of the computer was doing something useful all the time. Today, you just want to play a game for a while, then make a voice call, and don't want the battery to fizzle out before you get home (and maybe have some juice left for watching a show during your train ride home.)

Mobile devices don't try to match the throughput of all parts of the system, because it's not in anybody's interest to keep the I/O subsystem saturated close to capacity 100% of the time you're using your Droid/iPhone... in fact, they turn them off (go into a low power state) and do aggressive power management that is coordinated system-wide.

Cray did Last Starfighter, iPhone/Android better (5, Interesting)

MauiMaker (1802288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449676)

Back in 1983, I worked at Digital Productions [wikipedia.org] where we had one of the very few commercially owned Cray (X-MP) computers. We were doing 'proper work' of making some of the earliest CGI for film and advertising. There was a bit of film before (Tron, Westworld, Looker, JPL stuff, etc) but The Last Starfighter [wikipedia.org] was the first major film to use CGI exclusively for its spaceships, etc. in flying sequences. (Robert Preston drove a mockup car for ground scenes.) Each minute of film took (on rough avg) an hour of CPU time. All the rendering code was written in FORTRAN and ran on the Cray, outputting to film on a custom digital film printer.

Today, the games you can play on your iPhone/Android or even the aging Nintendo DS have better graphics!! Resolution is a lot lower (not 3000x5000!) but at the screen size it certainly looks much better - and rendered in real time!

Integrated Bench (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32449762)

"But even today's most powerful cellphones don't come with an integrated bench."

Doesn't stop people from sitting on them....

Old machines (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32449904)

We used to joke about things like RSTS watches, when the PDP-11/70 was the latest and greatest machine for that. I could probably make one now if I wanted.

Proof that Seymour Was a Moron! (0, Troll)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 4 years ago | (#32450004)

And Seymour Cray had his own full time staff running around doing his bidding in his own little kingdom with hundreds of millions of dollars in business -- and he couldn't do any better than a third world call girl can today. So much for Cray's "genius"! Moreover, I think we can safely say that the rinky-dink bike shop of the Wright Brothers producing a glorified kite with a lawn mower engine when compared to the Saturn V demonstrates that retrograde idiocy of those who claim that independent yeoman inventors are the real contributors to technological advance [wikipedia.org] .

Ports are not 100% equal (1)

RapmasterT (787426) | more than 4 years ago | (#32450050)

It's an interesting comparison, but let's keep in mind that "porting" an app from one platform to another is not a zero sum game. Efficiencies can be gained, or lost based on the compiler or the person rewriting the code. a 90% performance penalty in poorly compiled code would not be unusual. Raw mathematical computations like Linpack performs are most useful, but since this version runs on top of a Java platform, the system overhead is already probably higher than the Cray has to slog through. So the phone could possibly be even higher (raw) performing than this shows.

This is sad really (3, Insightful)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 4 years ago | (#32450098)

Remember this scene in hackers?

PHREAK: Yo. Check this out guys, this is insanely great, it's got a 28.8 BPS modem!
DADE: Yeah? Display?
CEREAL: Active matrix, man. A million psychedelic colors. Man, baby, sweet, ooo!
NIKON: I want it.
PHREAK: I want it to have my children! ...
KATE: What the hell are you doing?
DADE: It's cool, I'm just looking.
KATE: It's too much machine for you.
DADE: Yeah?
KATE: I hope you don't screw like you type.
DADE: It has a killer refresh rate.
KATE: P6 chip. Triple the speed of the Pentium.
DADE: Yeah. It's not just the chip, it has a PCI bus. But you knew that.
KATE: Indeed. RISC architecture is gonna change everything.
DADE: Yeah. RISC is good.

Now, imagine all that excitement from the processing power and bandwidth they had even on a 28.8 modem - that we now have multiples of... in our pockets Where is it being leveraged for the goal for the good of man kind? Folding and SETI are good starts, but they haven; taken off. We've got tons of idle cycles... You'd figure there'd be some processing client where you get paid for your cycles, but it only exists as illegal botnets. Where's the open utility computing? Why don't my computers' idle cycles pay for themselves?

They were supposed to make our lives easier, but for as much as they empowered us, the exception processing got dumped on us. The nature of that work is different from the regular rhythmic routine of normal processing. Exceptions are urgent, require more effort and as a result are more stressful. And any news you get is when something is wrong.

I like the idea of being able to chat with people on the other side of the planet, but I haven't figured out what good it is to me. We don't have much in common with each other. I like the idea that I can do my own stock trading, but this usually means I lose money instead of my money manager. ;-p

Computers now cause as many problems as they solve (Goldman Sachs, AIG, I'm looking at you!) Is our society any better? Are people happier? Or are we more stressed out?

(And what has my /. commenting gotten me. Not a date or a dollar for sure!)

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