Home Science What are Supercomputers: A Complete Explanation

What are Supercomputers: A Complete Explanation

This era is the era of information technology and we cannot imagine this world without computers. Hence, Computers have become an essential part of human life. We can get any information and knowledge through computers.

Although, computers have made our works easier and faster, but the computers which we use in our day to day life are normal computers. But there are some specific computers that have a very high capacity of performance and use only for any specific purposes. Those computers are supercomputers.

We are going to cover these topics:

  1. Introduction
  2. History of supercomputer
  3. Uses of Supercomputers
  4. Fastest Supercomputer in the World
  5. Supercomputers in India
  6. Conclusion
  7. Frequently Asked Questions


Supercomputers are those computers which have a very large scale of computing power from normal computers. They have multiple CPU and microprocessor which linked together to perform multiple tasks at the same time.

Unlike from quantum computers which works in the concept of quantum bit, these computers work in normal bit concept but these computers can use vector arithmetic which means that they can operate on the list of multiple numbers rather than one pair of the number, which make them more accurate and faster.

Since they have multiple processors, they divide a big task into small tasks and distribute to all the processor to process them parallelly.

They can operate one billion of calculation at one second. Moreover, The speed of calculation of these computers is measured on FLOPS (Floating Points Operation per Second) whereas the speed of normal computers can measure on MIPS (Millions Instruction per Second). 

If we talk about the operating system, the initial supercomputers are worked on the UNIX operating system, but nowadays with the advancement in technology, LINUX OS is used on them. Although the manufacture also changes the operating system on the basis of their need. Also, Do you know Linux is one of the computer language used in hacking? check out which are the best hacking OS. Besides Linux, CentOS, Bullx, or Cray Linux are also used as an operating system in supercomputers.  

They are way more advance than normal computers and it takes a lot of money to develop them. that’s why their price is very high. So, normal people cannot buy them. Since, their price depends on its computational power, higher the computational power higher the money. So, The price of it can vary from $200,000 to $200M and more.

A picture is showing supercomputers

History of Supercomputers:

The term supercomputer arose on the 1960s. At that time an electrical engineer Seymour Cray first started to invent a supercomputer called CDC 6600 which was completed in 1964. Moreover, that computer is made by the company Controlled Data Corporation.

In addition, this computer has made some changes in traditional technologies like changing germanium transistor into silicon and installed a freon-based cooling system.

Moreover, this computer ran on 40 MHz speed and can execute around 3 million FLOPS, which had made it the world fastest computer. Hence, Mr Seymour Cray is considered as a father of supercomputer.

In comparison with other computers, it was 10 times more powerful than other normal computers and 3 times more powerful than IBM 730 stretch which was previously considered as the fastest computer. 

After that also Cray has made another in 1972, which can give the performance of 80 MHz and can perform 136 million FLOPS. Later on, many other companies like Intel has also joined the race.

Nowadays individual countries are making their own supercomputers. The top countries that are making them are USA, China, Japan, Germany etc. 

First Supercomputer CDC 6600
First Supercomputer CDC 6600

Uses of supercomputers:

Supercomputers have very high computational speed so these computers cannot be used in day to day life works. Also, these computers are very expensive. So, these computers are used in the field where very powerful computers are needed to work.

These computers come into use in where a large number of calculations is to be done at the same time. Also, it is used where large databases are to be handled. In addition, some of the fields where they can be used are given below

1. Weather forecasting:

 In weather forecasting, these computers can predict more precisely because they can evaluate the multiple changes in the environment at the same time which make it more accurate.

Picture shows a man giving news about weather in different parts of world

2. Nuclear testing:

Nowadays, testing of nuclear can also be done with these computers. Due to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, none can do a nuclear test. Hence, big countries simulate nuclear test in these computers.

Firstly, They analyze all the possible conditions that could affect the bomb. Secondly, They analyze the effect of temperature, pressure and other environmental factors in nuclear weapon and simulates what exactly can happen to the bomb.

3. Brute force code breaking:

Secret encrypted code is difficult to break through normal computers but it is much-easier through these computers because it can perform multiple tasks in parallel. Sometimes it is necessary to break any secret code of terrorist and criminals that’s why supercomputers are used.

4. Space exploration:

Since, sending a satellite into the space needs very high-power computers for communication, supercomputers have enough processing capacity to perform any tasks. similarly, it can process all the information collected from space easily and faster. Hence, these computers are used in space programs.

5. Molecular Dynamic simulation:

Last but not least, they can also use to simulate the molecular structure of the compound, which can further be used in medicinal purposes. Similarly, these computers can also use in gene synthesis etc.

An infographic showing different uses of supercomputers

Fastest Supercomputer in the World: 

Since, 1993 supercomputers have been ranked on the TOP-500 list, in which the top five hundred fastest computers are listed. Moreover, the maximum speed of these computers is given as the ‘Rmax’ rating. In the year 2018, Lenovo company became the world’s largest provider for TOP-50 supercomputers with 117 units produced.

Here is the list of top 10 fastest supercomputers of recent time.

Name of computers Rmax (TFLOPS)Location
2018IBM Summit148,600.0Oak Ridge, USA
2018IBM/Nvidia/Mellanox Sierra94,640.0Livermore, USA
2016Sunway TaihuLight93,014.6Wuxi, China
2013NUDT Tianhe-2 61,444.5Guangzhou, China
2019Dell Frontera23,516.4Austin, USA
2012Cray/HPE Piz Daint21,230.0Lugano, Switzerland 
2015Cray/HPE Trinity20,158.7New Mexico, USA
2018Fujitsu ABCI19,880.0Tokyo, Japan
2018Lenovo Super MUC-NG19,476.6Garching, Germany
2018IBM/Nvidia/Mellanox Lassen18,200.0Livermore, USA
IBM summit, world fastest supercomputer
IBM Summit, World fastest supercomputer

Supercomputers in India:

India has also invested a lot in supercomputing. India’s supercomputing program has started from the late 1980s. At that time India wants to import supercomputer from the US but US president Ronald Reagan had denied to give it.

Then, India decided to build its own. Hence, India made its first supercomputer PARAM 8000, which was made by a team of scientists headed by Dr Vijay Pandurang Bhatkar with the collaboration of Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC). This computer was launched on July 1, 1991. Also, this computer had been world second fastest supercomputer with the speed of 5GFLOPS at that time. 

In recent time, India has its two computers in TOP500 list (data till November 2019) and it ranks on 22nd position in countrywide. The two computers in TOP500 are Pratyush (Cray XC40) and Mihir (Cray XC40).

Currently, Pratyush is the fastest computer in India with a top speed of 4,006.2 TFLOPS. Similarly, Mihir (Cray XC40) is the second-fastest computer with a peak speed of 2,808.87 TFLOPS. 

List of Supercomputers in India

There are lots of other computers in India with considerable speed. Some of them are given below.

Name of ComputersSpeed (Rpeak) (TFLOPS)
InC1 – Lenovo C1040  1413.1
Param Shivay883
Aaditya (iDataPlex DX360M4)790.7
Cray XC30730
PARAM Yuva II520.4

Moreover, India is using these computers in different fields like space programs, education, weather forecasting, health care systems and automobile sectors. And hence, India is continuously working to make better computers in future. 


In conclusion, supercomputers are very high powered computers having a large processing capacity, since they used multiple processors. Moreover, they are used in the weather forecast, medicine development, nuclear testing, decryption and other works which need very high computing power. The fastest supercomputer in today’s world is IBM Summit.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why Linux is used as an operating system in supercomputers?

Firstly, Linux has a potential of scalability. That means that it can handle a large number of server loads. Secondly, Linux is an open-source operating system. Hence, in case of any problems, developers can easily fix the loopholes, glitches, and bugs, at any time which make them more effective on works. Similarly, there is no need to pay the royalty for this OS. Further, some others benefits are that it can be run on any small to big computers and also it has made up of small building module which has some distinct works and all the building blocks work together to make it run. This modular makes Linux more effective.

2. Why supercomputers are so big?

Normally they are filled in the two-tennis court-sized room. They are that much big because they have made from many computers combining together. Hence, they have too many CPUs, hardware combing all together to perform many tasks at the same time. Hence, they are very big in size.

3. Difference between Supercomputers and Mainframe computers

Supercomputers are designed to perform high and advance mathematical computation and mainframe computers are used to serve a large number of users simultaneously and also used to handle large databases. Supercomputers are faster than normal computers. Most of them use Linux as an operating system and mainframe computers can run multiple operating systems simultaneously. 

4. Difference between supercomputer and quantum computers:

Quantum computer works on the principle of quantum bits whereas supercomputer works on normal binary bits. Qubits can perform 1, 0 or (1, 0) at the same time so it can perform any task in very fast speed but supercomputers have multiple CPUs through which it divides its work and perform the task.


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