The Raijin supercomputer at the National Computational Infrastructure at ANU.

The Raijin supercomputer at the National Computational Infrastructure at ANU.

The computing conundrum

Since the first editions of ANU Reporter, the technology on campus has changed significantly. But TEGAN DOLSTRA, BMedSci (Hons) '09 finds out some things are still the same.

Computers have come a long way since the 1970s.

The days of punch cards and metres-long printouts are now, depending on your age, either a nostalgic memory, a (thankfully) distant awkward stage, or, for Gen Ys, a point of complete incredulity.

It's hard to reconcile today's palm-hugging smart phones with the six-foot processors of yore.

Or to fathom that 1980s systems made up of hundreds of square metres of hardware possessed processing power equivalent to that of a 9-inch Apple iPad 2.

But in some ways, today's cutting-edge research computers are not so different from their long-decommissioned ancestors.

The evolution of computing at ANU can be traced from the IBM 360/50 computer, mentioned in this ANU Reporter piece [below] from June 1971, through the ANU Supercomputing Facility from 1987 and the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing from 2000, to the current National Computational Infrastructure (NCI), which was established in 2007.