EH.Net Economic HIstory Encyclopedia
Yet another useful internet project:
Posted by DeLong at November 1, 2004 09:25 AM
EH.Net Encyclopedia: Index: EH.Net Encyclopedia of Economic and Business History is designed to provide students and laymen with high quality reference articles in the field. Articles for the Online Encyclopedia are written by experts, screened by a group of authorities, and carefully edited. A distinguished Advisory Board recommends entry topics, assists in the selection of authors, and defines the project's scope.
Have Supercomputer, Will Travel
By JOHN MARKOFF
SAN FRANCISCO - Add Steve Chen to the growing list of America's high-technology exports.
Mr. Chen, a Taiwanese-born American citizen who was considered one of the nation's most brilliant supercomputer designers while working in this country for the technology pioneer Seymour Cray in the 1980's, has moved to China - where he is leading an effort to claim the world computing speed record.
Supercomputing is being seized upon by the Chinese government to help speed the nation's transition from low-cost manufacturing to becoming a more powerful force in the world economy. China's leaders know that high-speed computing is essential to global leadership in scientific fields and advanced design of a variety of sophisticated products.
"Right now the Chinese have started to pay attention; they are catching up and they learn fast," said Mr. Chen, 60, who is splitting his time between China and San Jose, Calif., where his wife, Kate, and their four children live.
Military intelligence experts in this country have long been concerned that supercomputing capabilities may aid China's weapons development. But many technologists and economists say that blazing computing speeds alone do not represent a particularly new nuclear weapons threat. Instead, they are more concerned that the Chinese may catch up more quickly with the United States in areas that have economic and scientific, rather than military, ramifications.
Mr. Chen's decision to set up shop in China was driven in part by an unexpected twist: the opportunity to build a new company looked more promising to him there than in the United States, where he was unable to secure financing from American venture capitalists for his latest ideas. Mr. Chen concluded that the fallout from the collapse of the Internet bubble had poisoned the investment climate.
"I saw the crazy stuff going on," he said recently in a telephone interview from Shenzhen, near Hong Kong. "A lot of people got hurt."
While Mr. Chen is not a native of mainland China, his decision has parallels to an increasingly common odyssey by foreign-born researchers, who once would have found the greatest openings to use their skills in the United States. As the spread of capitalism creates opportunities elsewhere, many such talented people are returning to China, India and other developing countries to create or join advanced technology firms.
In May, Mr. Chen joined Galactic Computing Shenzhen, which is backed by investment money from a Hong Kong company that supported an earlier Chen venture and with further backing from a group of Chinese universities. His move reflects the fact that the market for high-performance computing is growing more rapidly in China than elsewhere in the world.
The Chinese are not yet a major force in supercomputing, but according to American computing experts, that is changing rapidly.
Today there are 14 Chinese supercomputers among the top 500, ranking the country fourth in the world, equal to Germany and behind only the United States, Japan and Britain. In June, a supercomputer assembled at the Shanghai Supercomputer Center using more than 2,500 chips designed and manufactured by Advanced Micro Devices of Sunnyvale, Calif., became the world's 10th-fastest computer.
"In terms of momentum they are the most rapidly ascending country in the world," said David Keyes, a professor of applied mathematics at Columbia University, who visited China last month to participate in a conference on high-performance computing.