“How I Invented a New Internet” | Philip Emeagwali | Contributions to Science and Technology


TIME magazine called him
“the unsung hero behind the Internet.” CNN called him “A Father of the Internet.”
President Bill Clinton called him “one of the great minds of the Information
Age.” He has been voted history’s greatest scientist
of African descent. He is Philip Emeagwali.
He is coming to Trinidad and Tobago to launch the 2008 Kwame Ture lecture series
on Sunday June 8 at the JFK [John F. Kennedy] auditorium
UWI [The University of the West Indies] Saint Augustine 5 p.m.
The Emancipation Support Committee invites you to come and hear this inspirational
mind address the theme:
“Crossing New Frontiers to Conquer Today’s Challenges.”
This lecture is one you cannot afford to miss. Admission is free.
So be there on Sunday June 8 5 p.m.
at the JFK auditorium UWI St. Augustine. [Wild applause and cheering for 22 seconds] [The Fastest Parallel Human Computers] It’s often forgotten that
parallel human computing was discovered in the early 1940s.
Shortly after the Second World War, parallel human computing
was used to crudely solve ordinary differential equations
governing the motions of projectiles. In the early 1940s,
ballistic computations were executed by 150 women, each a human computer
that computed in parallel, or computed 150 things
at a time, instead of computing only one thing
at a time. Those 150 female human computers
computed to solve an ordinary differential equation
of calculus. That ordinary differential equation
encoded the Second Law of Motion of physics.
Those 150 human computers computed, in parallel,
and computed six days a week and computed
for the Ballistic Research Laboratory in Aberdeen Proving Ground,
Aberdeen, Maryland, that’s 26 miles outside
Baltimore, Maryland. In early 1987, I declined a job offer
to program vector processing supercomputers at Aberdeen Proving Ground,
the birthplace of the supercomputer. I decline that job offer because
I was at the brink of completing my research that made the news headlines
as the experimental discovery of massively parallel supercomputing.
I declined that job offer, in part, because Baltimore, Maryland
is the hometown of my parents-in-law. There were university-trained
but were prevented by US segregation laws of the 1940s
from applying for computer programming jobs
at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Black American scientists
of the generation of my father were prevented from contributing
to the development of the computer. The denial to black supercomputer scientists
of the opportunity to contribute to the development of the computer
and to conduct research at the frontier of the supercomputer
is a terminal illness for American science and technology.
When I began supercomputing, in 1974, the segregation law had been abolished
in the United States which made it possible
for me to contribute to the development
of the fastest supercomputer. [How I Invented a New Internet] My contribution
to the development of the modern supercomputer
did not only reside in seeing my new internet
and in seeing the technology as a global network of
65,536 processors and did not only reside
in seeing each processor with my biological eyes.
I saw my new internet inside my mind
and I saw the technology as a new supercomputer
that was de facto a new internet.
It was my being the first person that saw the technology as a new internet
that proved that I invented the technology. I was the first discoverer because
I was the lone wolf research massively parallel processing
supercomputer scientist of the 1970s and ‘80s.
I was the first discoverer because I took a parallel processing
supercomputer path that was orthogonal
to the vector processing supercomputer path
that was taken by the 25,000 vector processing
supercomputer scientists of the 1980s. I was a research physicist
of the 1970s that was not searching for
new laws of physics, per se. I was a research mathematician
—in College Park, Maryland— that was not searching for
new partial differential equations, per se. And I was a research computer scientist
—in supercomputer centers across the United States—
that was not searching for new computer algorithms, per se.
On the contrary, my unorthodox quest was for a new supercomputer
that is a new internet that is defined and outlined
by a global network of 65,536 commodity processors.
My technological quest was for the fastest supercomputer
and for how to reduce 65,536 days, or 180 years,
of time-to-solution on only one processor
that is not a member of an ensemble of processors
and how to reduce it to just one day of time-to-solution
across a new supercomputer that is a new internet
and that is defined as a global network of
65,536 processors. I experimentally discovered
that the 32 bi-directional email wires that delivered emails
to and from each of those 65,536 commodity processors
can deliver the fastest processor-to-processor emails
and deliver them across a global network of 1,048,576
bi-directional email wires and deliver them
as many times faster than a singular
processor-to-processor email. That invention
redefined my new supercomputer as a new superinternet.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, I imagined my ensemble
of 65,536 commodity-off-the-shelf processors
as one cohesive new supercomputer that’s a parallel processing machine,
that’s de facto a small copy of a new internet.
That new internet was a small copy
of a never-before-understood Internet that had only 65,536 processors
around a globe instead of billions of computers
around a globe. For me, Philip Emeagwali,
to discover a new supercomputer and to discover it’s technology
inside a new internet was my act of harnessing
that untapped, total supercomputer power that was buried
in the sixteenth dimension and buried inside the bowels
of an ensemble of two-to-power-sixteen
commodity-off-the-shelf processors that were married together
as a new internet that sends and receives emails
across sixteen times two-to-power sixteen
bi-directional email wires. To discover a new supercomputer
that is de facto a new internet is the act of experimentally discovering
how to always execute the world’s fastest computations
and execute them across a global network of processors.
That experimental discovery is my contribution
to the development of the modern supercomputer
that is a new internet. [Wild applause and cheering for 17 seconds] Insightful and brilliant lecture

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