I used 65,536 processors to perform the world's fastest computation of 3.1 billion calculations per second in 1989.


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Philip Emeagwali
interviewed by Reuben Abati for The Nigerian Guardian.


You have the distinction of having invented the fastest computer in the world. Could you explain how you came about the computation that led to this, what makes it unique, and how an oil producing country like Nigeria can benefit from your invention which is said to have simplified oil exploration?
I used 65,536 processors to perform the world's fastest computation of 3.1 billion calculations per second in 1989. The actual result was four times faster when I used what is called assembly coded routines but it was the slower result that made the headlines.

That achievement made the headlines and alerted the petroleum industry that massively parallel computers can be used to recover more oil. Seventy percent of the oil in a petroleum reservoir cannot be recovered. Successfully running a petroleum reservoir model on a massively parallel computer will enable oil companies to recover additional oil from existing oil fields and discover new oil fields.

My original motivation was to demonstrate that computers with thousands of processing nodes, called massively parallel computers, can solve significant real-world problems. In the late 1980's, the largest computer (IBM) and supercomputer (Cray Research) manufacturers did not believe that massively parallel computers are useful or will outperform a conventional (vector) supercomputer.

To convince the computer industry that massively parallel computers can solve difficult problems, I used it to solve a scientific problem described by the United States government as one of the 20 most difficult problems in the computing field --- simulating how to recover oil from oilfields. Some of the experience gained and lessons learned from that work is what IBM applied to the Deep Blue computer program that defeated Garry Kasporov.

To convince the skeptical computer manufacturers that massively parallel computers can outperformed convectional supercomputers, I programmed a 65,536-processor computer to outperform all supercomputers and achieve the world's fastest computation.

Nigeria is the world's 9th largest oil-producing nation and 90 percent of its foreign revenue is from selling oil. Using this technology to recover additional oil from Nigerian oilfields will improve the Nigerian economy.


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