In 1979, Vishkin, a pioneer in parallel computing, began his work on developing a theory of parallel algorithms that relied on a mathematical model of a parallel computer, since, at that time, no viable parallel prototype existed. By 1997, advances in technology enabled him to begin building a prototype desktop device to test his theory; he and his team completed the device in December 2006.
The prototype device's physical hardware attributes are strikingly ordinary/standard computer components executing at 75 MHz. It is the device's parallel architecture, ease of programming and processing performance relative to other computers with the same clock speed that get people's attention.
Vishkin, a professor in the Clark School's electrical and computer engineering department and the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), explained the advantage of parallel processing like this: "Suppose you hire one person to clean your home, and it takes five hours, or 300 minutes, for the person to perform each task, one after the other," Vishkin said. "That's analogous to the current serial processing method. Now imagine that you have 100 cleaning people who can work on your home at the same time! That's the parallel processing method."
"The software challenge is: Can you manage all the different tasks and workers so that the job is completed in 3 minutes instead of 300." Vishkin continued. "Our algorithms make that feasible for general-purpose computing tasks for the first time."
Vishkin and his team are now demonstrating their technology, which in future devices could include 1,000 processors on a chip the size of a finger nail, to government and industry groups. To show how easy it is to program, Vishkin is also providing access to the prototype to students at Montgomery Blair High School in Montgomery County, Md.
I'd like some more detail about the special programming environment this guy has come up with for his parallel chip. But if this guy really has come up with a efficient general algorithm for dividing up a serial process into parallel pieces, he's probably just earned an ACM Turing award. At the very least.