New Purdue supercomputer named after CS legend Rice


A Purdue Computer Science forefather was on hand to see Purdue University’s newest supercomputer built in his namesake.

More than 100 Information Technology at Purdue staff members and volunteers built the research supercomputer -- expected to be one of the world’s most powerful.

The new machine is named for John R. Rice, the W. Brooks Fortune Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Purdue. Rice, one of the earliest faculty members of Purdue’s first-in-the-nation computer science program, is known for his research on scientific computing.

The last living member of the Department of Computer Science’s first five professors, who helped launch the program to where it is today, Rice marveled at the sheer size of his computer, which has roughly 7,000 times the processing power of an average laptop.

“I’m very impressed,” said Rice, whose supercomputer is simply called Rice. “That’s a big guy there. Wow!”

The high-performance computing data center fills up a large space on a lower level in the Mathematical Sciences Building. Hundreds of pieces were assembled and installed in the morning, and the machine was up and running by late afternoon.

Rice couldn’t help but think back to his first computer at Purdue in the early 1960s.

“The first one I was connected with had 80 words of memory,” Rice laughed. “They just grow and grow, and I don’t know where the end will be.”

More than 150 Purdue research labs and hundreds of faculty and students use supercomputers like Rice to develop new treatments for cancer, improve crop yields to better feed the planet, engineer quieter aircraft, study global climate change and probe the origins of the universe, among many other topics.

Rice should give Purdue three machines on the latest biannual TOP500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers and maintain Purdue’s place as offering the best high-performance computing resources in the United States for use by researchers on a single campus.

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