Many conferences try, fewer succeed. Thirty years ago, no one knew if the first SC would also be the last. Thirty years later, we know it’s the biggest annual conference for the HPC industry (expected attendance: 11,000), one that has burgeoned from its original focus on scientific computing into the enterprise across multiple industries and the hyperscale arena. All the while, it has wielded influence as a gathering place for leading thinkers and innovators, an educational forum, a networking opportunity, a community reunion – and also as a great time.
The first SC, then called Supercomputing ’88, was a diminutive, pipe-and-curtain show held in an Orlando hotel ballroom (see photos at end of article). Those original attendees were the passionate few with the vision to recognize that HPC was more than just (then) a highly specialized form of computing, it was a technology with an important mission and a future of growth around which would coalesce an ecosystem and a community that merited a conference of its own.
Now, 30 years later, SC18 — officially commencing Sunday in Dallas — will give special recognition to the 19 attendees of the founding conference who not only were in Orlando in 1988 but have attended every SC since: The Perennials. Included with them are nine organizations that have sponsored and exhibited at each SC, a group of Perennials that includes your correspondents’ employer: Tabor Communications, publisher of HPCwire (née Supercomputing Review).
The eight other perennial exhibitors: Altair, Cray, HPE, IBM, NAG (Numerical Algorithms Group), NASA, NEC and Oracle.
Who are the 19 Perennials? In alphabetical order, they are:
Mike Bernhardt – Then: a marketing manager with Multiflow Computer. Now: on the communications staff at ORNL and communications manager for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project.
Bill Boas – Then: with Alliant Mini-Supercomputing/UltraNetwork Technologies. Now: chairman and VP of business development at System Fabric Works.
Vito Bongiorno – Then: leader of the Benchmark Services Group at Cray Research. Now: enjoying retirement.
Jim Bottum – Then: deputy director at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Now: a research professor at Clemson University and a presidential fellow with Internet2; also, a principal investigator on a grant with a team of Historically Black Colleges and Universities to advance cyberinfrastructure capabilities and a co-PI on a grant with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium to advance cyberinfrastructure capabilities in tribal colleges and universities.
Maxine Brown – Then: with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory. Now: she is visualization lab director at UofI/Chicago.
Jack Dongarra – Then: at Argonne National Laboratory. Now: professor at the University of Tennessee and head of the university’s Innovative Computing Laboratory, located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Steve Finn – Then: senior analyst with Pacific Sierra Research. Now: senior principal systems analyst with Emagine IT.
John Gustafson – Then: at Sandia National Laboratories. Now: a professor in the School of Computing at the National University of Singapore and a visiting scientist at Singapore’s Agency of Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR).
Fred Johnson – Then: associate director for computing in the Information Technology Laboratory at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), U.S. Department of Commerce. Now: retired from the DOE Office of Science where he was the program manager for computer science research and senior consultant to the NNSA/ASC program and developer of the strategy for the Exascale Computing Project.
Lennart Johnsson – Then: associate professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at Yale University and also director of computational sciences at Thinking Machines Corp. Now: professor at University of Houston.
Anne Marie Kelly – Then: at the IEEE Computer Society and an original SC conference planner. Now: the Society’s associate executive director/director of governance.
John Levesque – Then: manager of a group of developers and code optimizers at Pacific Sierra Research. Now: director of the Supercomputing Center of Excellence in the CTO’s office at Cray, Inc.
Allen Malony – Then: a senior software engineer at the Center for Supercomputing Research and Development and a Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Now: a professor in the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Oregon, and CEO and director, ParaTools, Inc. He was recently appointed director of the newly established Oregon Advanced Computing Institute for Science and Society (OACISS).
Kenichi (Ken) Miura – Then: a director of the Computational Research Division at Fujitsu America and also a supporter of the technical team at Amdahl Corporation, which was marketing the VP Series in the U.S. Now: professor emeritus at the National Institute of Informatics, emeritus fellow at Fujitsu Laboratories and an affiliate at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Stephen Poole – Then: at IBM in Special Programs Development working on architectures and mathematical algorithms. Now: chief architect for future systems at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the office of the Associate Director for Theory, Simulation and Computing.
Ralph Roskies – Then: a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh and co-scientific director of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC). Now: retired from the PSC with a half-time role at the University of Pittsburgh as vice chancellor for research computing.
Horst Simon – Then: working for Computer Sciences Corp. at NASA Ames. Now: deputy director for research and chief research officer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Quentin Stout – Then: associate professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan. Now: professor of computer science and engineering, UofM.
Steve Wallach – Then: co-founder and vice president of Convex Computer Corp. Now: with Micron Technology.
The SC leadership will be recognizing the 30-year Perennials in multiple celebrations throughout the conference. One of these events will be a toast that Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire, will be making in their honor during the opening night gala event. This toast will be in the HPCwire booth (#3118), Monday evening, November 12, at 8:20 pm.
The individuals and exhibitors that have been a part of all 30 years of the SC conference will also be recognized at the SC18 keynote session (Exhibit Hall B, Tuesday, November 13, 8:30–10 am) and will be featured as part of the SC18 Newsdesk reports in the 30th Anniversary History Exhibit in Hall D. The ribbon-cutting for the exhibit is on Monday, November 12, at 6:45 pm.
— Special thanks to Perennial Mike Bernhardt, SC history-maker and historian, for his dedication to tracking this important part of SC history. We note that while SC is celebrating its 30th anniversary next week, returning Perennials will be making their 31st consecutive appearances.
Feature image caption: Perennials pose for group photo at SC16
Photos from Supercomputing 1988