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November 23, 2013

HPC Luminaries Reflect on 25 Years of SC

HPCwire Team

As SC13 comes to a close, we thought it might be a good time to take a look back at what the last 25 years of the SC conference has meant for key people in the supercomputing space. From Jack Dongarra, Horst Simon, Kathy Yelick and others, take a step back in time (and see how no one has aged a bit) and listen to these handful of perspectives we’ve compiled.

Dona Crawford, Associate Director at Lawrence Livermore National Lab offered her reflection as it relates to the SC community’s establishment of the George Michaels Graduate Fellowship after his death.

“I worked closely with the family to get permission to name the fellowship and his daughter was at the conference to witness the first recipient receiving this award.  I served on the review committee this year for the large number of proposals.  We were able to fund two excellent fellows.”

Crawford says, “The other thing of note from my point of view is how the conference has expanded over the years.  I remember the big draw in 1988 was the visualization theater run by Maxine Brown.  We were astounded to watch a little lamp dance across the stage and form the “i” in Pixar.  That was state-of-the-art at the time, but now is one simple moment at the beginning of any Pixar animated full length film.  I’ve attended every conference except one (due to illness) and have a program from every conference and a mug from each year starting with 1991.  Someday I’ll auction these items off and contribute the money back to the George Michaels Fellowship endowment.”

TACC Director, Jay Boisseau reflected on SC as well, noting:

The annual SC conference remains the most important gathering of people in the supercomputing community after 25 years, even though its nature has changed greatly from it’s early years. It started as a conference focused on maximum-performance, proprietary technologies for simulation-based science & engineering–which was important, but relatively specialized. As computing and data have become fundamental to all of science but also far beyond just science, and as technologies have evolved and become more mainstream, the size and scope of the meeting have expanded. I think this makes it more exciting and important than ever: the impacts of the technologies and topics at SC now reach into so many aspects of society as well as science, and are used by so many people now. The breadth of technologies at SC in computing, visualization, analytics, storage, networking, software, etc., is enormous, with truly international participation by researchers, developers, supercomputing centers, universities, research labs, government agencies, technology vendors, and companies that use these technologies.

The diversity of technologies and people is higher than ever because the importance of these technologies to science and society is greater than ever. A great conference has become even better, maturing into the ultimate opportunity to attempt to learn about everything that is new in our rapidly changing technology landscape. Of course, this means learning at SC is like drinking from a firehose, but there is never a shortage of opportunities to meet someone new, learn something new, and develop a new relationship or idea. SC is no longer specialized–it is quite the opposite–but it is a great thing that we have one huge conference that pulls our entire, diverse community together! “

Wilford Pinfold, Director of Research and Advanced Technology Development at Intel, says,

“While SC is a good conference, a good trade show and a good opportunity to participate in tutorials and workshops the real value for me is in the people who attend. It provides me an opportunity once a year to meet formally and casually with the influences across all aspects of HPC, in many ways SC is the heart of the HPC industry beating once a year.”

Feel free to jump in and tell us about your memories of SC’s gone by….

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