Many businesses are now using desktop computers linked together to replace their old mainframe systems. These machines divide up complex problems into smaller 'chunks' which are then fed to the desktop computers.

Larger parallel supercomputers - such as the Tera computer - cost millions and are used mostly for defence work. IBM believes with Patent 5717943 that it has developed a chip which could produce the same power (if not more) for a fraction of the cost.

The chip is called the Advanced Parallel Array Processor (APAP) and has a number of features which make it unique:

  • The APAP chip only dissipates 2 watts of energy compared to 60 watts for an Intel Pentium.
  • Existing parallel computers such as the transputer, are difficult to program. The APAP uses the same common software development tools for all its designs.
  • The design can be adapted for any size from a watch to a truly massive supercomputer.
  • The low heat dispersion of APAP means that many chips can be built close together - even on the same silicon wafer - without the computer suffering any cooling problems.