Last update : August 6, 2013

Supercomputers were introduced in the 1960s and were designed primarily by Seymour Cray at Control Data Corporation (CDC), and later at Cray Research. While the supercomputers of the 1970s used only a few processors, in the 1990s, machines with thousands of processors began to appear and by the end of the 20th century, massively parallel supercomputers with tens of thousands of “off-the-shelf” processors were the norm.

ChipTest, Deep Thought and Deep Blue supercomputers

ChipTest, Deep Thought and Deep Blue were chess computers. The chess project was started at Carnegie Mellon University by Feng-hsiung Hsu in 1985. He and his collaborators were hired by IBM Research in 1989 to continue their work to build a chess machine that could defeat the world champion. On May 11, 1997, Deep Blue, with human intervention between games, won the second six-game match against world champion Garry Kasparov by two wins to one with three draws.

Blue Gene supercomputers

Blue Gene is an IBM project aimed at designing supercomputers that can reach operating speeds in the petaFLOPS range, with low power consumption. The initial design for Blue Gene was based on an early version of the Cyclops64 architecture, designed by Monty Denneau. The project created three generations of supercomputers, Blue Gene/L, Blue Gene/P, and Blue Gene/Q. In 2004, the first IBM Blue Gene computer became the fastest supercomputer in the world.

Watson supercomputers

Watson is an artificial intelligence computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, developed in IBM’s DeepQA project by a research team led by principal investigator David Ferrucci. Watson was named after IBM’s first president, Thomas J. Watson. In 2011, as a test of its abilities, Watson competed on the quiz show Jeopardy!. Watson had access to 200 million pages of structured and unstructured content consuming four terabytes of disk storage including the full text of Wikipedia, but was not connected to the Internet during the game.

IBM describes Watson as “an application of advanced Natural Language Processing, Information Retrieval, Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, and Machine Learning technologies to the field of open domain question answering“.  IBM’s DeepQA technology is used for hypothesis generation, massive evidence gathering, analysis, and scoring.

Watson is related to Artificial Intelligence and to the research of commonsense knowledge, the collection of facts and information that an ordinary person is expected to know.