It was 10 years ago, almost to the day (11 May 1997) that IBM's Deep Blue became the first computer to win a chess tournament against a reigning world champion chess master.
Deep Blue had 32 processors and could process about 200-million chess moves per second in its historic six-game match against Garry Kasparov.
Now, 10 years later, Blue Gene – the fastest supercomputer in the world and the descendent of Deep Blue – uses 131 000 processors to routinely handle 280-trillion operations every second.
A single scientist with a calculator would have to work non-stop for 177 000 years to perform the operations that Blue Gene can do in one second.
The Cell Broadband Engine, a modern videogame chip, may be more powerful than Deep Blue, but the computer science theories pioneered by Deep Blue (performing millions of calculations simultaneously or “in parallel”) are the foundation of Blue Gene, and foreshadowed today’s “multicore” chip designs.
Blue Gene is at work in science, academia and government labs probing the invisible and providing new insight into: life sciences (protein folding, genetic research; brain research); hydrodynamics; quantum chemistry; astronomy and space research; materials science; and climate modeling.