Super-duper little computer
The great Kiwi scientist Ernest Rutherford’s quip “We haven’t the money, so we’ve got to think” has been echoing around the laboratory walls of the University’s Department of Computer Science.
Senior lecturer Dr Andrew Trotman was wrestling with the problem of dealing with large amounts of data without a budget to buy a room full of computers and came up with the idea of building a personal super-computer.
Turning that idea into reality has become a collaborative effort, notably also involving computer science lecturer Dr David Eyers, Paul Campbell from the private sector who has returned home to Dunedin after working in Silicon Valley and former computer science student Nicholas Sherlock.
They are developing a solar-powered, portable, high-performance personal super-computer that has the processing power of a traditional cluster of computers at about a 10th of the cost.
So far they have experimented with circuit boards and acquired a grant from the Otago Energy Research Centre to buy solar panels, which will be installed on the roof of the Owheo Building.
Trotman stresses that they are at the very early stage of having just one compute-node on one circuit board, but hope to have a working prototype by the middle of next year.
“Whenever we talk to people, both inside and outside the University, about what we are building, they are very interested; a lot of people have similar problems to ours and have similar financial constraints. So there is a potential commercialisation path.”