What They’re Saying About Us: AirSpace Blog Highlights A Little Piece of Computer History Right Here At Goddard
Did you know that Goddard Space Flight Center occupies a little-known place in the history of computer design?
To find out all the details, read this historical post on the AirSpace blog by Paul Ceruzzi, a curator specializing in aerospace computing and electronics in the Division of Space History at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM).
Ceruzzi informs us that the leading Google search on NASM’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport is “a pair of large blue boxes crammed full of circuit boards, tucked away in the northwest corner of the McDonnell Space hangar.”
The blue boxes are the Massively Parallel Processor. Ceruzzi explains in his blog post:
“The MPP was built for the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, by the Goodyear Aerospace Corporation of Akron, Ohio—a division of Goodyear well-known for its lighter-than-air craft, but a company that also was a pioneer in supplying advanced computers to military and aerospace customers. It was designed in the late 1970s, delivered to Goddard in 1983, and operated into the 1990s.”
What did the MPP do? Ok, very simply, a parallel computing machine divides a computing task up into pieces, solves each piece working in parallel, and puts the results all back together in the end. It’s the difference between a single worker with a shovel arduously digging a ditch, or 100 workers attacking the task simultaneously as a group.
One of the heir’s to the MPP sits down the hall from me. It is the Discover supercomputer, based on a parallel processing architecture. Soon it will have 29,000 processors working in parallel to solve massive computational tasks for the new NASA Center for Climate Simulation. You can read more about Discover on Gogblog if you want.
I’m hoping to find someone at Goddard who might have worked with the MPP and can tell us more about what they did with it.
It is therefore Gogblog’s good fortune to be located a few doors from Goddard’s Computational and Information Sciences and Technology Office.
CISTO friends and colleagues…anybody ever work with the MPP? Email me or post your comments on the blog to share with the public and your NASA colleagues.
Contact Gogblog: daniel[dot]a[dot]pendick[at sign]nasa[dot]gov
Gogblog tips his massively parallel hat to Federal News Radio’s Christopher Dorobek for including this blog in the “Dorobek Must Reads” list for July 6.
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center.