Gamers' challenge: Build a supercomputer

For those ready to get their geek on, Purdue University has created the computer game for you.

I've often wondered what a true geek's best pickup line would be, but thought "come on over and build this computer with me!" might be a little far-fetched. As it turns out, not at all.

To help students to get their geek on, Purdue University on Monday announced Rack-A-Node, an online computer game that lets you build... a computer.

But it's not just any computer, it's a supercomputer. In the game, players are asked to build a cluster supercomputer using a variety of computing types to run science experiments. A player begins with a small supercomputer and receives science jobs to process. If these jobs are successful, the player receives funding needed to build an even bigger supercomputer.

Purdue University

For example, the game begins with a chemistry job that requires a lot of memory, then a climate-modeling job, which is a high throughput task that needs faster network communication. Later, a 3D science animation-rendering job requires multiple nodes to process. The game also includes jobs from life sciences, pharmacy, physics, and engineering.

The game requires players to optimize the supercomputer for the type of science job being performed, as certain tools perform better against certain challenges.

According to the school's IT manager, Kyle Bowen, some aspects of Rack-A-Node can be compared with the game "rock, paper, scissors," which seems to be many geeks' favorite in real life.

"The characters on the television show Big Bang Theory would spend hours playing Rack-A-Node," Bowen said.

If you are one of those characters, or just want to test out your geek level, the game is available online for free.

Personally, I suspect this is only the first step. The next versions of the game will possibly involve players designing a computer game for the virtual computer they have built.

About the author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.


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