Retail Electronics Supercomputer want pants too

Thanks everyone who responded to the poll in my last message. On the subject of more efficient use of processor power in the service of humanity:

I was in the mall last week. We have an electronics chain here called FutureShop. They had some computers on display running movies, screensavers, etc. I counted them. There were 26 in this store operating. There are 137 FutureShop locations in Canada.

I started to think about how many computers are on display in electronics retail stores. Apple has about 200 stores worldwide. Circuit City has 566 stores.  So just a rough estimate, there are ~20,000 computers operating in displays in these three retail chains doing nothing useful. The total number including other big chains and smaller retail spots is likely at least double this. Assuming 40,000 computers each running at about 1 GF/s, the combined computing power of display computers in retail stores for embarrassingly parallel computations (like quantum monte carlo) is about 40 teraflops, which would place Retail Electronics Supercomputer!!! (say this with Monster Truck Announcer Voice) somewhere in the top 100 fastest computers in the world.

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4 Responses to “Retail Electronics Supercomputer want pants too”

  1. Monte Cristo simulation Says:

    Sadly, a substantial fraction of in-store demo computers are not networked. QED: no network, no data sets. Providing access is probably regarded as a liability issue; nothing quite like having an entire sales floor infected with porn-popup malware during the holiday shopping season. Still, using spare cycles to further our understanding of important problems is definitely a good idea, in principle. 🙂

  2. Geordie Says:

    Very good point.

  3. Marco Says:

    So how much would you be willing to pay for access to that supercomputer? If it covers at least the cost of electricity to run those machines then maybe somebody has the start of a business model. If you want it for free then maybe you could offer your software as a benchmarking tool with cool screensaver or something, so customers can tell one machine from another as they seem quite generic in the store these days. At the very least it has to put something cool looking on the screen to show off the video card. The only consumer app that even begins to tax a modern PC is transcoding video to h.264 and maybe the latest video games.

  4. Geordie Says:

    Marco: I think the problem that Monte Cristo pointed out is a severe one. The computers would have to be internet connected. I’m pretty sure (but not entirely) that display computers aren’t. Doing this would cost, and would open them up for abuse. These costs might be manageable though.

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