amsci-swc-2005(2)

amsci-swc-2005(2) - 2006 *ANUARYn&EBRUARY 5

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WWW.AMERICANSCIENTIST.ORG -ACROSCOPE © 2006 3IGMA 8I, 4HE 3CIENTIFIC 7ESEARCH 3OCIETY. 7EPRODUCTION WITH PERMISSION ONLY. #ONTACT PERMS!AMSCI.ORG. 7¡iÀi½ÃÊÌ¡iÊ,i>¢Ê)£ÌÌ¢i¤iV¥Ê ¦¤Ê-V¦i¤Ì¦v¦VÊ*£§«Õ̦¤}¶ 'REGORY 9. :ILSON : HEN ) FIRST STARTED DOING COMPUTATIONAL SCIENCE IN 1;<6, A NEW GENERATION OF FAST, CHEAP CHIPS HAD JUST USHERED IN THE CURRENT ERA OF LOW-COST SUPERCOMPUTERS, IN WHICH MULTIPLE PROCESSORS WORK IN PARALLEL ON A SINGLE PROBLEM. 3UDDENLY, IT SEEMED AS THOUGH EVERYONE WHO TOOK NUMBER CRUNCHING SERIOUSLY WAS REWRITING HIS OR HER SOFTWARE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THESE NEW MACHINES. 3URE, IT HURT¡THE COMPIL- ERS THAT TRANSLATED PROGRAMS TO RUN ON PARALLEL COMPUTERS WERE FLAKY, DEBUG- GING TOOLS WERE NONEXISTENT, AND THINKING ABOUT HOW TO SOLVE PROBLEMS IN PARALLEL WAS OFTEN LIKE TRYING TO SOLVE A THOUSAND CROSSWORD PUZZLES AT ONCE¡BUT THE PO- TENTIAL PAYOFF SEEMED ENORMOUS. /ANY INVESTIGATORS WERE POSITIVE THAT WITHIN A FEW YEARS, COMPUTER MODELING WOULD LET SCIENTISTS INVESTIGATE A WHOLE RANGE OF PHENOMENA THAT WERE TOO BIG, TOO SMALL, TOO FAST, TOO SLOW, TOO DANGEROUS OR TOO COMPLICATED TO EXAMINE IN THE LAB OR TO ANALYZE WITH PENCIL AND PAPER. "UT BY THE MID-1;;0S, ) HAD A NAGGING FEELING THAT SOMETHING WAS WRONG. &OR EVERY SUCCESSFUL SIMULATION OF GLOBAL CLIMATE, THERE WERE A DOZEN OR MORE GROUPS STRUGGLING JUST TO GET THEIR PROGRAM TO RUN. 4HEIR WORK WAS NEVER QUITE READY TO SHOWCASE AT CONFERENCES OR ON THE COVER OF THEIR LOCAL SUPERCOMPUTING CENTER(S NEWSLETTER. /ANY STRUGGLED ON FOR MONTHS OR YEARS, TWEAKING AND TINKERING UNTIL THEIR CODE DID SOMETHING MORE INTERESTING THAN GRINDING TO A HALT OR DIVIDING BY ZERO. &OR SOME REASON, GETTING TO COMPUTATIONAL HEAVEN WAS TAKING A LOT LONGER THAN EXPECTED. ) THEREFORE STARTED ASKING SCIENTISTS HOW THEY WROTE THEIR PROGRAMS. 4HE ANSWERS WERE SOBERING. :HEREAS A FEW KNEW MORE THAN MOST OF THE COMMERCIAL SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS )(D WORKED WITH, THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY WERE STILL USING ANCIENT TEXT EDITORS LIKE 9I AND =OTEPAD, SHARING FILES WITH COLLEAGUES BY EMAILING THEM AROUND AND TESTING BY, WELL, ACTUALLY, NOT TESTING THEIR PROGRAMS SYSTEMATICALLY AT ALL. ) FINALLY ASKED A FRIEND WHO WAS PURSUING A DOCTORATE IN PARTICLE PHYSICS WHY HE INSISTED ON DOING EVERYTHING THE HARD WAY. :HY NOT USE AN INTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT ENVIRONMENT WITH A SYMBOLIC DEBUGGER? :HY NOT WRITE UNIT TESTS? :HY NOT USE A VERSION-CONTROL SYSTEM? +IS ANSWER WAS, h:HAT(S A VERSION-CONTROL SYSTEM?v $ VERSION-CONTROL SYSTEM, ) EXPLAINED, IS A PIECE OF SOFTWARE THAT MONITORS
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This note was uploaded on 10/28/2010 for the course CSCI 1113 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at Minnesota.

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amsci-swc-2005(2) - 2006 *ANUARYn&EBRUARY 5

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