Connection Machine

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FROSTBURG on display [1]

Connection Machine,
a series of supercomputers that grew out of Danny Hillis' doctoral research at MIT in the early 1980s on alternatives to the traditional von Neumann architecture of computation, originally intended for applications in artificial intelligence and symbolic computation. The Connection Machine was manufacturered since 1983 by Thinking Machines Corporation (TMC), founded by Danny Hillis and Sheryl Handler [2].

CM-1, CM-2, CM-200

The CM-1 consisted of up to 64 kibi of 1-bit SIMD processors with 4 kibibits of RAM each inside a network of a 12-dimensional boolean n-cube structure suggested by physicist Richard Feynman. Within this hardwired physical structure, the software data structures for communication and transfer of data between processors could change as needed depending on the nature of the problem. This meant the mutability of the connections between processors were more important than the processors themselves. The CM-2, released in 1987, was a more advanced successor (including floating point hardware) with the same physical structure [3].


Under guidance of Charles E. Leiserson and Bradley C. Kuszmaul, the CM-5, announced in 1991, switched from the CM-2's hypercubic architecture of simple processors to an entirely new MIMD architecture based on the fat tree [4] network of SPARC, and for the later CM-5E, SuperSPARC processors [5].


Lewis Stiller used a CM-2 to generate certain chess six-piece endgame tablebases by massively parallel retrograde analysis [6]. CM-5 architects Charles E. Leiserson and Bradley C. Kuszmaul were also co-authors of the parallel MIT chess programs StarTech and *Socrates. StarTech played the ACM 1993 on NCSA's 512-processor CM-5 [7] for third place [8]. Incorporating the ACM 1993 winner, the serial program Socrates II by Don Dailey and Larry Kaufman, StarTech emerged to *Socrates, which played the ACM 1994 on the CM-5/512 again to become third behind Deep Thought II and Zarkov. At the WCCC 1995 in Hong Kong, *Socrates played on a Intel Paragon, where it lost the playoff versus Fritz.


Quote from History of *Socrates by Chris Joerg from his Ph.D. Thesis [9] :

We began work on this program in May of 1994. Don Dailey and Larry Kaufman of Heuristic Software provided us with a version of Socrates, their serial chess program. During May and June we parallelized the program using Cilk, focusing mainly on the search algorithm and the transposition table. During June Dailey visited MIT to help tune the program, but we spent most of June simply getting the parallel version of the program to work correctly. In late June, we entered *Socrates in the 1994 ACM International Computer Chess Championship in Cape May, New Jersey. We ran the program on a 512-node CM-5 at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois. Despite the fact that we had begun working on the program less than two months earlier, the program ran reliable and finished in third place. 

Chess Programs

See also

Selected Publications

1985 ...

1990 ...

1995 ...

External Links


  1. The light panels of FROSTBURG, a CM-5, on display at the National Cryptologic Museum in 2005. The panels were used to check the usage of the processing nodes, and to run diagnostics.
  2. Connection Machine from Wikipedia
  3. The Connection Machine by Tamiko Thiel
  4. Charles E. Leiserson (1985). Fat-Trees: Universal Networks for Hardware-efficient Supercomputing. IEEE Transactions on Computers, Vol. 34 , No. 10, pdf
  5. CM-5/1024 | TOP500 Supercomputer Sites
  6. Lewis Stiller (1996). Multilinear Algebra and Chess Endgames. Games of No Chance edited by Richard J. Nowakowski, pdf
  7. CM-5/512 | TOP500 Supercomputer Sites
  8. 1993 ACM International Computer Chess Championship (with corrections) by Bradley Kuszmaul,, February 19, 1993
  9. Christopher F. Joerg (1996). The Cilk System for Parallel Multithreaded Computing Ph. D. thesis, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT, pdf
  10. Cooley–Tukey FFT algorithm from Wikipedia

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