Fast, inexpensive computers are now essential for nearly all human endeavors and have been a critical factor in increasing economic productivity, enabling new defense systems, and advancing the frontiers of science. For the last half-century, computers have been doubling in performance and capacity every couple of years. For example, the raw performance of a 1970s supercomputer is now available in a typical modern cell phone. The remarkable growth in computing throughout the lifetimes of most people has resulted in the expectation that such phenomenal progress will continue well into the future. As our demand for increased technology performance shows no signs of slowing, it becomes apparent that we need to find ways to sustain increasing performance.
In their efforts to make faster computers, scientists have concentrated on reductions in transistor size, enabling more transistors to be packed onto computer chips. Current chips range from several complex processors to hundreds of simpler processors. To use chip multiprocessors, applications must use a parallel programming model, which divides a program into parts that are then executed in parallel on distinct processors. However, much software today is written according to a sequential programming model, and applications written this way cannot easily be sped up by using parallel processors. The Future of Computing Performance: Game Over or Next Level? recommends that our nation place a much greater emphasis on IT and computer-science research and development focused on improvements and innovations in parallel processing, and on making the transition to computing centered on parallelism.
This book also discusses the need for research and development on much more power-efficient computing systems at all levels of technology, including devices, hardware architecture, and software. The Future of Computing Performance makes recommendations aimed at supporting and focusing research, development, and education in parallel computing. It sets a path forward to sustain growth in computer performance so that we can enjoy the next level of benefits to society.
This book and others from the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board can inform discussion and guide decision-making.
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