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Ballad of the Massively Parallel Supercomputing Pioneers

And this is my first music post. Always something to celebrate here at insideHPC.

Mike Bernhardt’s name is pretty well known in HPC — he’s serving as the Communications Chair for SC09 – and at SC08 in Austin, he was one of a handful of people recognized with the SC Cornerstone Award for 20 continuous years of participation at the SC Conference. He was with Multiflow Computer, the VLIW pioneering company a little more than 20 years ago, and spent several years as a Marketing Evangelist with Intel’s Supercomputing Systems Division where he was behind the product launches of the Intel iPSC/860, the Touchstone Delta System (built for the Concurrent Supercomputing Consortium), and the Intel Paragon supercomputer.

Anyway, here is a tribute to more than two decades of HPC marketing…something that recently surfaced thanks to Dr. Olaf Storaasli, one of the “pioneers” mentioned in this piece, who was with NASA Langley back in 1992.

This is fun and creative, and reflects a time during which HPC was as much about passion and creativity as it was about business. Here’s the story as it was relayed to me by Mike, to give you some background on this piece:

It was April of 1992.

Intel was on a roll, and was continually capturing mind share and press coverage as a leader in parallel supercomputing.

Bernhardt’s marketing team managed to rent the entire Timberline Lodge (at the top of Mt. Hood, just outside of Portland, Oregon) for a 2-day / 2-night meeting. This is the same lodge featured in all the outside views of the hotel where Jack Nicholson stays in “The Shining.”

The VIPs Intel brought in for this meeting were all met at the Portland airport and taken up to Timberline in limos (of course), being sure the drivers had chains in the trunks – because that time of year, you never knew if it would be snowing. So, there you have 30 people — sitting in a meeting room at Timberline Lodge up on Mt. Hood — floor to ceiling windows looking out at the mountain peak. A true “Summit” meeting. That first evening, there was a light snow falling all around and the scene was from a postcard.

After a great dinner, he (Mike) surprised the guests with a song written just for the occasion. Now, keep in mind, these were some very serious and very conservative guests. For example, Terry Cole, who was the Chief Scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Bob Decker, a senior exec from an oil company who was pioneering the use of supercomputing to model where to drill for oil, and David Audley, a top exec from Prudential Bache Securities a pioneer of using supercomputing on wall street. Even Intel’s current CTO, Justin Rattner was there.

Mike hired and collaborated with a Portland, Oregon-based songwriter and musician named Jon Newton who wrote and produced a song, with just a little guidance from Bernhardt. Right after dinner, when people were expecting a boring speech, Jon Newton and his partner walked into the room, their musical instruments and amps were sitting off to the side with a cover over them. They sat down, and everyone got quiet, and Jon started the song.

Which, thanks to the power of the computerwebs, you can hear at insideHPC today. After you listen to this song, see if you can help me out.

We’ve put our heads together at insideHPC galactic headquarters, and we know where some of these folks are, but I’d like to find out what happened to the rest of the pioneers. If you recognize any of their names and can help us find out what they are doing today, drop me a note.

Mentioned in the song are:

  • Dan Anderson (we think Dan was with Ford)
  • Terry Bennet (industry analyst)
  • Dick Sherman (Passed Away. Dick used to run the Research Consortium, RCI)
  • Richard Hill (Richard was a very well respected analyst and columnist and wrote the Spang Robinson Report on Supercomputing.)
  • Jeff Canin (Jeff Canin was with Montgomery Securities in San Francisco and had a column every other month in the prestige supercomputing magazine, Supercomputing Review before it evolved into HPCwire.)
  • Gary Smaby (Gary was a sought-after industry analyst, advisor, columnist and investor. He eventually teamed up with John Rollwagon to form Minneapolis based Quatris Fund (a VC fund) and is currently Director of Collaborative Innovation at the University of Minnesota, and VC-in-Residence at Carlson Ventures according to LinkedIN.)
  • Chris Willard (was with DataQuest back then and is currently with Tabor Research)
  • Debra Goldfarb (Debra was with IDC in 1992, and is currently CEO of Tabor Communications)
  • Olaf Storaasli (Olaf was with NASA Langley in 1992, and is currently at ORNL)
  • Rick Stevens (Rick was with Argonne back then – and still is.)
  • Bob Decker (Bob was with an oil company – again, Mike’s memory has failed him. Might have been ARCO?)
  • Terry Cole (Passed Away. Terry was the Chief Scientist for NASA JPL.)
  • Davd Audley (David was a true supercomputing pioneer on Wall Street and was with Prudential Bache Securities.)
  • George Lindamood (George was a very talented industry analyst with Gartner Group.)

Leave a comment if you have the 411 on any of the folks we can’t pin down today.

Comments

  1. I see Dan Anderson continued his activity in HPC at Ford as Director of CAE
    :
    http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=4948&page=118

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/danielanderson14

    I’m curious about the others. Please let me know

    Olaf@ornl.gov

  2. By the way, I enjoyed hearing about the background and the ingenuity of Mike
    to pull off this surprise for all of us. I never thought my complicated Norwegian
    name could be set to music.

    ARCO is correct for Bob Decker as Google: Robert Decker ARCO
    gives his ’98 London Presentation:

    Robert C. Decker
    ARCO Exploration and Production Technology
    2300 West Plano Parkway
    Plano TX

  3. As I recall the last “Pioneer” is George E. Lindamood (not Lindemuth) who
    wrote for Government Technology after Gartner as per:

    Google: George Lindamood

    http://www.govtech.com/gt/articles/3884
    http://portal.acm.org/author_page.cfm?id=81100126419&coll=GUIDE&dl=GUIDE&trk=0&CFID=26052575&CFTOKEN=12863288

    I may still have the Timberline Agenda & presentations

  4. John West says:

    Olaf – thanks. I’ve corrected George’s name…

  5. Somewhat related, NASA did a 9-part video of “Lessons” learned when I retired to join Oak Ridge. One episode relates to the Intel Supercomputing days:

    http://ft.ornl.gov/~olaf/NASA/6Intel.mp4

  6. George Lindamood says:

    Yes, my name is not George Lindemuth, although Lindemuth was probably my family name back in Germany before my ancestors migrated to America in 1749. It’s not clear how or when the name got changed to Lindamood, but my great-grandfather spelled it Lindemood. And there is some ambiguity as to whether the original German was Lindemuth or Lindenmuth.

    As to my credentials as a “pioneer” in parallel computing, it should be noted that from June 1962 until September 1963 I was part of Dan Slotnick’s research group at Westinghouse (Baltimore), working on the development of the SOLOMON computer, which got renamed and transmogrified into ILLIAC IV after Slotnick moved to Univ of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign. Neither SOLOMON nor ILLIAC IV would qualify as “massively parallel” by today’s standards, but they certainly seemed “massive” 40+ years ago.

  7. I retired from ORNL in May 2012 to join USEC (see http://tinyurl.com/olafcv )

    Best wishes,

    Olaf O. Storaasli

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