In October 2012 the Parallella project ended its Kickstarter campaign, having easily surpassed its funding goal of $750,000. Unlike many Kickstarter hardware projects which you may consider lighthearted, Parallella has a rather astonishing goal: It’s all about creating a credit card-sized computer that has a complex enough architecture that it can push out up to 90 gigaflops. Which makes it, more or less, a palmtop supercomputer. And to go with its diminutive size, the Parallella has a diminutive price–going for just $99 in its entry level edition.
As part of the Kickstarter project, the team behind the hardware promised that they’d release the device’s design as open source. And this they’ve now done–lending some realistic backbone to the Kickstarter promise of making a “supercomputer for everyone.”
Packing an ARM Cortex A9 chip alongside either a 16-core or 64-core Ephiphany multicore coprocessor, the Parallela’s design also includes 1 GB of DDR3 memory, some basic on-board LEDs, USB ports, an Ethernet connector and microHDMI out. It’s also USB powered, and this along with its 87 by 53 mm size may remind you of an Arduino.
But with the 64-core edition pushing out 90 gigaflops of parallel processing power, it easily surpasses the slow processing of an Arduino. 90GFlops is roughly equivalent to the kind of machine that would have appeared in the famous Top 500 list of supercomputers in the early 1990s. Machines on this list typically cost many millions, and sometimes billions of dollars.
The Parallella team imagines that innovative coders will be able to make the device perform some incredible imaging, communications, audio or even medical applications, and do so at a significantly lower price than through other options. It’s just a question of building the machine, loading Linux onto it and getting coding.