* Posts by dauwk

1 post • joined 18 Aug 2011

David May, parallel processing pioneer


We thought it was a vision of the future

In the early '80s I ran a series of symposia for IBM UK "thought leaders" at Cambridge University. The theme of the first one was "Change" and we invited Inmos along to demonstrate the transputer technology, which some of us thought IBM should invest in.

At around that time IBM was proud to have produced a complex ray-traced image of a Newton's Cradle sitting on a chess board. This was done in under 24 hours on a high end general purpose mainframe.

Inmos demonstrated the same image before our eyes in minutes using a couple of shoebox-sized pieces of hardware. They also demonstrated how the performance could be increased by simply adding more transputers without powering off the machine.

Following the demonstration the group discussion decided that it was obviously done with smoke and mirrors and had no commercial value!

I learned a lot from that presentation, mainly to make sure that change was introduced in small increments. This was proof of Clark's 3rd Law - "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."