Print this page
Find this article at:
Custom-designed supercomputer named for local WWII
By Jim DeBrosse, Staff Writer
Updated 11:55 PM Sunday, August 30, 2009
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — The Air Force Research Laboratory’s newest supercomputer — the 308th-fastest device in
the world — will take its name from a pioneer in computer development, Dayton codebreaker Joe Desch.
The “Desch,” a custom-designed SGI Altix ICE 8200 the size of seven refrigerators side-by-side, will be unveiled this morning, Aug. 31,
in a ceremony at the base attended by Desch’s daughter, Debbie Anderson. “This is the stuff he loved,” Anderson said last week. “He’d
want to know exactly how it worked.”
A team of researchers at Wright-Patt will use the new supercomputer to translate massive amounts of radar surveillance data into
high-resolution, 3-dimensional video images for observing activity over an entire city — down to someone lighting a cigarette — any
time of day or night and in any weather.
Built by Silicon Graphics Inc. of Fremont, Calif., the Desch cost $2.2 million and has enough storage to challenge even a music-loving
teenager — 87 terabytes, or enough for 25 million iPod tunes, base officials said.
Mike Minardi, a researcher in the Sensors Directorate, said his interest in Dayton’s codebreaking history led to the idea of honoring
Desch, who designed a computer during World War II that helped the Allies crack the Nazi Enigma codes.
In a secret ceremony in 1947, Desch was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor for war-time service, the Presidential Medal of
Merit. He died in 1987 at age 80, having never told anyone of his achievement.
Keep reading: Supercomputer-powered radar has amazing scope
Custom-designed supercomputer named for local WWII codebreaker
1 of 2
9/29/09 2:19 PM
Print this page