Modern Marvels: Computers ?? no graphics supers

Randy Dawson rdawson16 at hotmail.com
Sat Mar 10 15:06:34 CST 2007


Jim,
I totally agree with you, todays GPUs are screamers.  Did you know that the 
core of NVIDIA's design team came from SGI?
Sad to see that company went wintel...  I think they were almost de-listed 
from the stock excchage at one point, as the stock dipped below a dollar.

Jim, have you followed the recent threads in the news, to use the GPU 
processor fabric as a general purpose engine, not just for pixels?  If you 
have IEEE access, search GPU.
Due to the PC gamers, we really do have a supercomputer on a card for 40 
bucks or less.  If anyone else is exploring this topic, please reply or 
email me rdawson16 at hotmail dot com.

I think the strenght of the Stardent system was a combination of things from 
Gordon More and Seymour Cray, their rules for supercomputer design.  The 
memory bandwidth was awsome for the time, and with 4 processors and a vector 
unit accessing it independently, crunching code from a compiler that knew 
how to vectorize and divide tasks.

I had a chance to represent another company (I was a graphics consultant to 
NASA) Superset- they had a cool idea too, to process Fortran in near native 
instruction of the machine.  They used bit slice 2901s from AMD to create a 
A (operation) B = C machine, and a compiler to generate this code.  So the 
machine was sort of a hardware interpreter.  If you look at todays DSPs they 
are very similar, they can read an operand, write an operand and perform a 
computation in a single cycle.

I have Stardent (Kubota) Dore' running today and porting my old app to it.  
I wrote the PC roller coaster simulator, COASTER.  I want to re-spin it, now 
that fast GPU hardware has finaly arrived and in every PC.

My rose colored glasses recall all of these machines booting to prompt and a 
screen in seconds.  They always ran for months without a crash, and could 
read/write 500 mbyte images/data files in seconds too.   The PC aint there 
yet...

I write this from FreeBSD, I took all the 'Gates' out of my computer, and 
guess what, it still works.
Thanks for your coments, Jim.

Randy


>From: Jim Battle <frustum at pacbell.net>
>Reply-To: "General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic 
>Posts"<cctalk at classiccmp.org>
>To: General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts 
><cctalk at classiccmp.org>
>Subject: Re: Modern Marvels: Computers ?? no graphics supers
>Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2007 13:44:55 -0600
>
>Randy Dawson wrote:
>...
>>Lost, sadly was the machine between then and now, the Graphics 
>>Supercomputer.  In an effort to add computational speed to graphics and 
>>scientific visualazation, two vendors went head to head on this problem, 
>>Ardent and Stellar.
>>If you were around at the time, and saw one of these I would love to hear 
>>from you.  The performance was truly spectacular.  I had a chance to use 
>>one for a couple of years, and it still comes pretty close to current GPU 
>>tec in graphics performance.  With pipeline vector processor and compiler 
>>to unroll loops it was WOW.  Todays Ghz processors cannot beat a vector 
>>machine in computation, Titan had a 16 Mhz 1K floating point vector ALU.
>
>Randy, no doubt you know a lot more about the ardent/stellar/stardent stuff 
>than me.  I was aware of it and I once got hold of the design spec for the 
>TOE processor (the 4x4 pixel "stamper").  However, I think you aren't aware 
>of how sophisticated todays GPUs are.
>
>16 MHz * 1K flops = 16 Gflops.  A single top end GPU is more like 500 
>GFLOPS (single prec only, though).  Today's GPUs have myriad pixel formats, 
>including ARGB with an FP32 for each component.  Pixel shaders are highly 
>programmable.  A single GPU can have > 80 GB/sec of bandwidth to DRAM (not 
>cache).
>
>The TOE processor was a fixed point affair with limited, fixed point 
>precision.  There is no comparison.  I wish I still had the spec to make a 
>more concrete comparison.
>
>A google search turned up this quote:
>
>With the Dore' rendering package [Borden89], each processor is capable of 
>rendering a maximum of 20,000 smoothly shaded small polygons/seconds.
>
>Today's GPUs can render thousands of times more triangle per second, 
>antialiased, with multiple, high quality texture maps and arbitrary 
>blending.
>
>Another google search
>
>	http://www.ece.cmu.edu/~ece548/handouts/17v_perf.pdf
>
>says that the Titan 1 had a 125 ns clock period and two FPUs, for 16 
>MFLOP/s peak.  Perhaps you recall 1K FPUs, but maybe it was a 1K vector 
>register length.  The same pdf (written by Philip Koopman) says that even 
>with four processor, and with a large (1000x1000) array size, the titan-1 
>peaked at 15.7 Mflops.  It attributes this to the fact that the aggregate 
>bus bandwidth of the titan was 256 MB/sec.  By rewriting the linpack code 
>to block the data appropriately, they got it up to 46 MFLOP/s.
>
>So, overall, I think there is no comparison.  The rose colored glasses of 
>time have fooled you.
>
>...
>>Are there any graphics guys on the list?
>
>Yes, from the hw end of things.
>

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