It is 15 years since IBM's chess playing supercomputer Deep Blue beat the reigning world chess champion Gary Kasparov at his own game.
On May 11, 1997 the champion and computer met at the Equitable Center in New York, in front of television cameras and an audience who watched the match on television screens rather than in the studio where it actually took place.
The chess grandmaster won the first game, Deep Blue took the next one, and the two players drew the three following games. Game 6 ended the match with a crushing defeat of the champion by Deep Blue.
Deep Blue's program, written in C, ran under the IBM AIX operating system and took a brute-force approach, searching up to 200 million possible chess positions per second and ran on a supercomputer that had been augmented by some special-purpose hardware that accelerated parts of the computation.
Specifically, Deep Blue was a 32-node IBM RS/6000 SP high-performance computer, which used IBM POWER2 Super Chip processors, the single-chip implementation of the POWER2 processor. Each node employed a single microchannel card containing eight dedicated VLSI chess processors, for a total of 256 processors working in tandem.
To celebrate this anniversary IBM brings us a video, which explains that the significance of Deep Blue's victory was not simply about the computer's ability to play chess for its own sake but as a demonstration of how to solve a difficult class of problem, and an infographic showing how Deep Blue paved the way for tackling increasingly large data challenges.
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After Deep Blue came Blue Gene, which in 2004 was the world's fastest supercomputer, capable of handling 478 trillion operations per second thanks to having 212,992 processors. Then in 2011 IBM's Watson won Jeopardy by virtue of its ability to analyze some 200 million pages of data per second.