NOTHING moves in the 40 black cabinets in the facility outside Shanghai except the water in the cooling system. But the 10m processing units within crunch through numbers at an incredible speed. The Sunway TaihuLight can perform 93,000trn calculations a second. It is currently by far the fastest supercomputer in the world.
Supercomputers have their origins in national security. The biggest are still mostly, like TaihuLight, paid for by governments, and they still play a role in national self-esteem. For decades, it was axiomatic that the fastest of these computers would mostly be American, or at least use American chips. No longer. When Top500, a website, released its latest list of the world’s fastest machines last November, 202 of them were Chinese, accounting for 35.4% of the list’s combined computing power; America’s 143 machines accounted for just 29.6%. Many of the Chinese computers, admittedly, use American chips. But TaihuLight, the champion, proudly uses chips made in China.
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