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Gordon Bell Visits Livermore and the HPC Revolution He Helped Create

Dona Crawford and Gordon Bell with the model of the computer rooms in the lobby of the TSF.

Over at Lawrence Livermore National Labs, Donald B Johnston that computing pioneer Gordon Bell paid a visit to LLNL.

It’s hard to understate the importance of Gordon Bell to supercomputing as we know it today. While he was known as an architect and as an entrepreneur, for me personally his great charm and greatest contribution has been his ability to understand and then communicate in a very pithy, often funny and understandable manner very deep or complex trends in computing – for example, comments attributed to him include ‘the network becomes the system’ or ‘the most reliable components are the ones you leave out,’ which often popped into my head this past year as we struggled with integrating a 20PF system,” said Michel McCoy, head of LLNL’s Advanced Simulation and Computing Program. “He has also been a part of the Lab’s history in supercomputing, showing us today that his passion for supercomputers and his belief in their importance in advancing human civilization is undiminished.”

In a guest lecture, Bell used his own “Bell’s Law of Computer Classes,” the subject of a 1972 article he authored, as the framework for discussing the evolution of supercomputing since the 1960s. The emergence in the 60s of a new, lower cost computer class based on microprocessors formed the basis of Moore’s Law. Bell posited that advances in semiconductor, storage and network technologies brought about a new class of computers every decade to fulfill a new need. Classes include: mainframes (1960s), minicomputers (1970s), networked workstations and personal computers (1980s), browser-web-server structure (1990s), palm computing (1995), web services (2000s), convergence of cell phones and computers (2003), and Wireless Sensor Networks aka motes (2004).

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