marenostrum

MareNostrum
 

In her comment to my entry cyberian churches,
orange asked, referring to the entry’s two pictures: “and what makes these “cyberpunk ambient”?” First of all, if a little introspection from my side is allowed, both pictures give me the cyberpunk creeps shivering up and down my spine. Those are my individual perceptions, now for the elaboration.

KerLeone’s picture shows a gothic cathedral, somewhere in Spain, where air ducts were brutally led through the arched windows into the interior. It’s Gilliam’s cyberpunk-metaphor for technology running rampant come alive. Without any respect for the ancient architecture the substantial pipes have been driven through, adding to the otherwise decaying facade. The result is a composite picture—in fact more than a mere picture, it’s empirical reality, cyberpunked living—containing bequeathed art and æsthetics and purely functional lo-tech devices set in particular relation to each other. This setting is well suited to provoke some reflection about e.g. contemporary culture as manifested in urban contexts. Clearly an aspect cyberpunk is about.

The above picture shows MareNostrum, a Big Blue teraflop-machine, the core of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC). The BSC was built into a chapel, and MareNostrum is inside the chapel, too [There’s a load of ↑pics at zdnet]. Maybe starting with Gerald M. Weinberg’s “The psychology of computer programming” (1998 [1971]) things, which at first glance appear to be deeply profane—calculating machines in the end—have been given the air of the sacred by the use of metaphors like ‘cathedral’ and ‘priests’. Converting a chapel into a supercomputing center, and prominently placing a mainframe like MareNostrum into its very heart, clearly means this metaphors to become physically and architecturally manifest. A computer living in the house of god—if that’s not cyberpunk, nicely represented by the contrast of hi-tech and ‘old’ architecture. And there’s more to it:
 

What if one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers—ranked among the top five in the prestigious TOP500—could be constructed from products available for sale to any business, within a relatively small footprint and on a tight schedule? Using blade servers, a Linux operating environment and other cost-efficient technologies to help unravel the most complex, compute-intensive problems, MareNostrum represents a new way of thinking about high performance computing.

It consists of parts bought off the peg and uses open-source software! Technology hitting the streets, wargames reloaded.

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