Don't throw away that old computer. You might be able to use it for something big. The New York Times reports the birth of a homemade supercomputer about to be ranked as one of the fastest machines in the world. Supercomputers traditionally cost $100 million to $250 million and take years to put together. But the faculty, technicians, and students at Virginia Polytechnic Institute used 1,100 off-the-shelf Apple Macintosh computers and assembled a supercomputer in just one month for $5 million. The result is a machine that can compute 7.41 trillion operations a second. Student volunteers received free pizzas for their labor. Virginia Tech's president offered free football tickets to those spending long hours on the project. Their efforts produced a system that ranks at least fourth fastest in the world. Officials at the school said the final speed number might be significantly higher. Citation: John Beukema, associate editor PreachingToday.com; source: John Markoff, The New York Times (10-22-03)

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