As the name implies, a supercomputer is no ordinary computer. It is a high performance computing machine designed to have extremely fast processing speeds. Supercomputers have various applications, such as performing complex scientific calculations, modeling simulations, and rendering large amounts of 3D graphics. They may also be built to simply showcase the leading edge of computing technology.
If you are hoping to have a supercomputer on your desk, you may be out of luck. Supercomputers are typically several times the size of a typical desktop computer and require far more power. A supercomputer may also consist of a series of computers, which may fill an entire room. Examples of single machine supercomputers include the early Cray-1 and Cray X-MP systems developed by Cray Research as well as the more recent Blue Gene and Roadrunner systems developed by IBM. System X is an example of a multi-system supercomputer, which was developed by Virginia Tech and is comprised of 1,100 Apple Xserve G5s.
Supercomputers cost a fortune to build and are expensive to maintain, which is why only a few exist in the entire world. Furthermore, computing power continues to advance each year, meaning it isn't too long before a ground-breaking supercomputer isn't so super. The good news is that the supercomputers of the past eventually become the personal computers of today. Therefore, your home PC most likely has more computing power than many supercomputers from previous decades. Now that's super cool.
Updated: September 25, 2009